The Dilemma of the Oaklandish-Israeli Expat
Due to family circumstance, I ended up this past Tuesday evening, in one of Oakland’s “taverns”. The place, reeking of deep fried oils, meat and beer, was packed with “loud and proud” Golden State Warrior fans, cheering and screaming. We walked in when the first quarter ended, and the tension was unmistakable. A victory for the Warriors was not just about “a” game; not even just about the NBA championship. It seemed that everything that Oakland is, was, could be and is known for – was at stake. It was hard not to get swept away. I sadly admit, it wasn’t until one of the fans asked another, how do you pronounce what’s his name, coach of the Cleveland Cavalier, and man, does he have an unusual name, that I remembered.
55 year old David Blatt, is one of the most successful American coaches in European basketball history. As a coach, Blatt has been the Israeli League Coach of the Year four times (1996, 2002, 2011, and 2014). Most recently, he led Maccabi Tel Aviv, winning the Israel League, Israeli Cup and the Euroleague Championship. But all this paled. It was not about comparing sportsmanship. It was a pure recognition that now, on the screen, this is my landsman, and if my landsman is fighting for something, anything! so must I. Aren’t we taught that “kol Yisrael arevim ze laze” (all Israel / Jewish people are interlinked wth each other)?! And yet, cheering for the Caveliers here? That can be pikuach nefesh (endangering a soul)! And what about Oakland, where our home is; the beautiful, soulful city that captured my heart??
In that one moment, 2000 years of Jewish diaspora experience flashed before my eyes, forever torn between loyalties: What are we to do?
Oakland Hebrew Day School brings together so many things I love: Strong Judaic studies, taught by a super committed team; a “Pardes-like” Beit Midrash, and a location that can’t be beat, in the beautiful Oakland hills overlooking an amazing view.
Rabbi Leubitz, head of school, shared his thoughts following graduation. People, he said, long for connectivity and meaning, and the road there leads through gratitude. Gratitude is like any other muscle. We have to deliberately exercise it, daily, with intent. You can let it go and it won’t be there for you when you need it; or you can practice it, strengthen it, grow more appreciative and thus, find yourself living a life that is more connected and more meaningful. He gave all us summer homework: everyday say thank you. Write it down if you think you’ll forget; look for opportunities; reach out and lift your “spiritual weights”.
There is not enough time to say all my thank-yous (and surely not right before Shabbat), but with that in mind, I especially want to thank all of you who donated to my campaign for ReJewvenate. Your support means the world to me. If you haven’t had a chance and would like to participate, the campaign is still going on for just shy of 2 more weeks, and you can follow the link here. Again, thank you, thank you.
The Book of Numbers is full of exciting stories, condensing the period of 40 years in the desert. This week, we read about Korach and his people. As we know, Korach, himself a Levi too, challenges Moses’ leadership and becomes a model to contention in the community, but before we rush to make modern conclusions about who are the current Korachs and who is Moses, we read a strange verse (Numbers 17:5): “… and there won’t be like Korach and hi people”… what does that mean? No more challenges to our leaders? No more arguments? No more ego battles??
Rather, says one of the commentators (Rabbi Brot, the Rabbi of Brisk), such a dispute where truth was all on one side, and falsehood is all on the other – won’t happen again. In disputes that we encounter, we are asked for a measure of humility: each side has a little bit of truth and a little bit of untruth, and from there, we can sit down and seek solutions.