Get on the Train

This summer, my daughter Gabi is commuting from Summit, NJ, into NYC for her job each day. Anyone who lives around Summit knows that starting July 10th, her travel experience is going change dramatically for the worse when the trains from Summit will be diverted to Hoboken for construction.

We’ve had a number of conversations about the best way to deal with this most inconvenient decision on the part of NJ Transit. At the end of the day, though, I have had to tell her that as much as I would like to help her, I have never commuted from our home to NYC. Therefore, I have little to offer her in terms of practical knowledge or advice. She has my sympathy, but I’m pretty useless to her. (Fortunately, we know plenty of people who DO have the knowledge to help her!)

I was thinking about this situation as I read a troubling article in the Jerusalem Post about the declining support for Israel among college-age students (click here to read it yourself). It seems to me that we are sending a large swath of Jewish kids out to college campuses without the ability to counter the systematic attacks on Israel that are commonplace at virtually every university across the country. It’s like sending a kid to the train station without a schedule, without a ticket and without warning them about the massive construction that’s about to start.

If you’re like me and you don’t want to imagine a world without Israel and you recognize the importance of Israel to the future of Judaism, then we cannot let this continue. We have to give our kids the full story of Israel – not just the narrative that is being told by anti-Israel activists on college campuses.

I recognize that not everyone is able to do this – just like I can’t help my daughter navigate NJ Transit. That’s why Jewish teen programs – like the one we have at our synagogue – are so important. Through the Israeli teen emissaries – called “Rishonim” – that work in our school, through Ra’anana teen delegation that has visited our school (and stayed in our homes) each of the last four years and through passion of our teachers, our teens are introduced to the part of Israel that those activists don’t want our kids to know about.

Like the US – and any other western-style democracy – Israel is an imperfect country. As lovers and supporters of Israel, we should strive to help make Israel even better. But, Israel is already an amazing place. And when our kids hear the whole story, they fall in love with her. When they only hear the story being told on college campuses, they don’t.

So if you know of a teen – your child, grandchild, niece, nephew or neighbor – who is NOT in a teen program where they can hear the whole story of Israel, it’s time to do something about it. If they live anywhere around Summit, I can’t help them with NJ Transit, but I’d love to help them get on the Israel train.



About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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