Public Speaking Winner - Day 2: You're Jewish, Be Proud!
Updated: Apr 6
Since the beginning of time, Jews have been persecuted for their beliefs, for their practices, for their religion. It is all too often that the path one takes is the one of least resistance; the path that sets the hard work aside for the next person, that cowers in the face of adversity. It is one thing for someone to have belief in something. It is on the next level for this person to be proud and defend it. Take your morals and values for example. Everyone would like to think of themselves as someone who would stand up to what is wrong. Yet, when faced with the choice to play it safe or defend what you believe is right, it takes incredible strength to do the latter. Because it is this that will not win you popularity points, but will afford you the self respect and ethics worth fighting for. And this cannot be gained through silence.
There is an idea in Judaism that prayer is more valuable when done amongst numbers, a Minyan as we call it. A Minyan is the minimum number of 10 males required to constitute a representative “Community of Israel.” It was the firm belief of our sages that wherever ten Israelites are assembled, either for worship or for the study of the law, the Divine Presence dwells among them. The emphasis is put upon the merits and sacredness of the Minyan of ten; the collective group. The individual is not enough. The idea that there is strength in numbers resonates. When one prays for the healing of another, we learn it is best to say the name of the sick individual and to follow it with the words "בתוך שאר חולי ישראל," which means- amongst the rest of Israel’s sick. The reason for this is that praying for one person is powerful, but praying for this individual amongst everyone else who needs healing as well, takes your prayer for this individual and multiplies it’s worth. It is known that one who prays for another and also desires this outcome as well, his prayers will be answered for himself first. This is because the idea of responsibility amongst the Jewish nation, one for the other, is so strong. As we say, "כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה,"every Jewish person is accountable for the next. And through this idea, we create community, we create responsibility through our privilege. We recognize that while we may fear that we are sacrificing our privacy, our safety, and our individuality, we gain so much more in return.
We, the Senior class of 2022 in North Shore Hebrew Academy High School, take this tremendous opportunity upon us as we soon enter into the next phase of our lives. We can reflect upon the years we’ve had here and bring all we’ve gained to the world at large. For me personally, it has been a life-altering experience. I have met the most dedicated group of faculty members, who prioritize life lessons and curriculum lessons equally, with the utmost respect and care for their students. The deepest and truest friendships that I have made here have taught me the meaning of loyalty, honor, and standing up for what is right even in the face of difficulty. To all of you, I am forever grateful. I don’t believe this special recipe of ingredients can be achieved in quite the same way without the common set of core values that we follow, the backdrop of our common goal of living a Torah life. It is so clear that a life alone, a life without truly embracing all that Judaism has to offer as a collective unit, is only a small portion of the life we could be living.
There will always be a fear of rejection. A fear that no one will truly embrace and understand your ways. However, when you choose to fully honor your beliefs privately, there will always be something missing. Community. Why practice Judaism openly? Because without appreciating our religion with others, it’s hard to see the true beauty of what we practice.
So I openly choose my religion. I openly choose my faith. I openly choose my global Jewish community. I choose to not only practice my beliefs but to proudly celebrate them together. I hope you will too.