As a thirteen-year-old b’nai mitzvah at Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego, I had two things on my mind: nailing my torah portion (you bet I did, and with the voice of an angel), and opening envelopes containing checks in multiples of $18 (to be used for savings only, and definitely not for Nintendo 64 games…).
Despite living reminders from my family’s World War II vets and Holocaust survivors, who flew in from San Francisco to celebrate my “coming of age” ceremony, anti-Semitism was the furthest thing from my mind.
Fast forward to three weeks ago, when I was privileged to have a homecoming of sorts when Rabbi Michael Berk and my childhood friend Rabbi Jeremy Gimbel invited me back to CBISD to share the role of LGBTQ Israelis in building a stronger, more inclusive future for their country.
Prominently in my mind today is the time I spent with CBI’s 2019 B’nai Mitzvah students, 18 years my junior. On one hand, I was amazed how many lightyears ahead these students were in understanding and embracing their LGBTQ peers, compared to my time, and how willing they were to embrace the same work of full inclusion in Israel. On the other hand, none of these students, when it is their turn to take the Bimah this year, will have the privilege to ignore the anti-Semitism in their midst, as I once did. They live in a different world than I — but I am confident they are ready for it.
It can be easy to underestimate us, with sunny skies, friendly dispositions, and laidback attitudes. To those folks, I say they’ve got it all wrong. Above all else, building Jewish community is about the celebration of life — something our San Diego Jewish community lives up to every sunny day.
The best way for us to resist is simply to thrive. And I know that the Chabad of Poway, the San Diego Jewish community, and Jewish communities around the world will continue to do just that.
Tyler Gregory, Executive Director
A Wider Bridge