In recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, The New York Jewish Week published an op-ed titled “Funny, He Doesn’t Look Jewish” by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman. Rabbi Hammerman uses the concurrence of the presidential primaries, this week’s Torah portion (Beshalach) in which the Israelites cross the Red Sea and MLK Day to stress the importance of embracing diversity in the Jewish community. Without endorsing political candidates, he writes:
And as if to place an exclamation point on that premise, the Haftarah features a female military champion named Deborah and her sidekick named, of all things, Barak. If either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama eventually becomes commander in chief, we can say that we heard it here first, in the book of Judges. Throw in the real chance that a Jewish third party candidate may join the fray and we’ve got, at long last, a presidential campaign that looks like America.
Setting aside position papers for the moment, we, as Jews, should be celebrating the diversity of this year’s slate.
Rabbi Hammerman calls to the Jewish community to break down its self-imposed barriers, such as race, gender, age and disabilities, which “are based primarily on appearance rather than substance.” The stereotype of all Jews possessing Eastern European physical features was always just a stereotype and is even more so now.
As we read Beshalach this Shabbat, let us reflect on the diversity of the Jewish community and the progress we have made towards welcoming everyone into our midst.
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