Monday, August 20, 2007

The Jewish People Seattle

We Jews believe in "ahavat Yisroyal," love for our fellow Jews. (We certainly love others too.) Beyond that, in our tradition, we know God has always responded best when Jews as a people united in our commitment to the Torah and His commandments.

So when the Jews of the Northwest get together every year to throw a "Jewish
Festival," you've got to "feel the love" and support it. That's what our family did this Sunday. My son volunteered several hours of his time to booths for Jewish youth organizations, and my daughter, husband and I decided that it was worth our afternoon to express our interest and caring for Jews of all ilk in our area.

Maybe you've heard that Seattle is famous for, OK, yes, Starbucks and Microsoft. Even before them, we had RAIN. But, supposedly, not now. "There are only two seasons in Seattle. August and the rainy season." Yep, but Saturday afternoon began a pelting summer storm that kept up through the night. You can get a battering from raindrops for five minutes, and then nothing for three minutes until another cloud decides its best target is you.

So, the Seattle Jewish Festival was a mud-field. The kind of soggy goo that feels like brown quicksand sucking your sandals when you pull up your foot to take a step. The rain was strong enough that we natives resorted to something we NEVER do: we used umbrellas. It was that bad.

The festival was basically rows of those famous white plastic pop-up booths, each touting a Jewish organization. We'd skipped breakfast with the expectation that finally, HERE was a festival with food we could eat--kosher--rather than the usual non-kosher elephant ears and lard-laced curly fries. There was but one food stand, yes, kosher, though we financially careful Jews wouldn't have considered it a mitseeah (bargain).

I do love my fellow Jews, and I wish the sun had shone on this event, in every way. But I did note that the official proceedings had a palpably political (liberal) undertone. Introducing the pro-Israel "march" around the park perimeter was a radio personality known for his anit-Israel views--he'd even met with Palestinians. The only shelter with audience seats offered one left-wing speaker after another. And right up front, next to the only music stage, was the booth of a Federation-sponsored gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-gendered group. There were also two Chabad booths, the excellent Seattle Kollel, and my son's organizations, NCSY youth group, and "Friendship Circle," through which he and other teens volunteer in the homes of developmentally disabled children. Several synagogues of all types were represented, and a variety of social service groups, many of which did appear to have a liberal orientation..

The featured musical performer, David Broza, was described in event literature this way: "
More than a singer/songwriter, David Broza is well-known for his commitment and dedication to several humanitarian causes, predominantly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Beginning in 1977, Broza has been working to bring the message of peace to the masses by joining peace movements, and singing what is now the anthem of the ‘Peace Now’ movement, his hit song, Yihye Tov. A recent project has been writing and recording with the Palestinian music group, Sabreen, the song ‘Belibi’, which featured Broza, Sabreen’s Wissam Murad, and two children’s choirs, one from each side of the conflict."

We all want peace, and we all love the hope implied by the group hug of music performed together with enemies. John Lennon wasn't the first to plead naively, "give peace a chance." Motorist Rodney King (i.e. convicted felon who happened to get beat up in the LA riots) wanted to know, "why can't we all just get along?"

At Bellevue downtown park yesterday, (thankfully, as usual,) the Jewish community of Seattle got along. Everybody mucked from muddy booth to the next in good cheer. There were no protesters (that I could see) and nobody even took on the blatantly liberal speakers. Most heartening was the coming together of all sorts of groups that rarely interact in our Jewish community of 50,000. The "Kippa Lady" crochets colorful discs to be worn on any Jew's head (photo, top). Commercial and altruistic groups offer junkets to Israel, the place we agree is our homeland. The point was that everyone was there. Under dark skies and on dank earth, philosophically disparate communities of Jews let each other know of our presence, and reminded Seattle and the world that "Am Yisroyal Chai," the Jewish people live.

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