To be a Jew in the twentieth century
Is to be offered a gift. If you refuse,
Wishing to be invisible, you choose
Death of the spirit, the stone insanity.
Accepting, take full life. Full agonies:
Your evening deep in the labyrinthine blood
Of those who resist, fail, and resist; and God
Reduced to a hostage among hostages.
The gift is torment. Not alone the still
Torture, isolation; or torture of the flesh.
That may come also. But the accepting wish,
The whole and fertile spirit as guarantee
For every human freedom, suffering to be free,
Daring to live for the impossible.
– Letter to the Front, Muriel Rukeyser
One of my friends showed me this poem when we were planning a module focused on Judaism for the madatz (madrichimot tzirim [young counselors/counselors in training]) program we’re running at camp this summer. I thought it was really beautiful. It’s a call to action against assimilation and a challenge to Jews to embrace their Judaism. It reminds me of the Jewish activism that I’m involved with. Every time I read over it, I feel a little more enthusiastic and interested in engaging in parts of Judaism that I haven’t before. Reading this makes me feel a bit stronger and sure of myself. I’m excited to share this text here and also to share it with my fellow madrichimot (counselors) and chanichimot (campers, in this case, the madatzimot) this summer.