Opinion

Bomb Threats, Baseball, and the Quietly Heroic Family Israelis Don't Know

None of this is what you know. This is America. Jews have stood up to hatred. Their communities are stronger and closer than before. Moreover, they've worked hand in hand with Muslims for mutual aid at a time of crisis.

Israel's baseball team members take off caps to expose yarmulkas during Hatikva

I'd like a word with my friends and neighbors the Israelis. Seriously. It's about those relatives you've grown distant from, over the years. The ones you no longer know: North American Jews.

Something's happening with them. In all kinds of ways, in places you've never heard of, they're exhibiting a quiet heroism, a new self-awareness. In the process, in ways they never have before, they're becoming something you're not expecting. Something new. They're becoming themselves.

In short clips, in afterthoughts on news broadcasts, you may have seen the Jewish community centers, schools, and synagogues evacuated by bomb threats. Mostly, you saw lines of pre-schoolers and elderly people, some of them Holocaust survivors, being led out of the threatened buildings.

You have seen footage of hundreds of Jewish graves desecrated, swastikas painted on doorways, Nazi-tinged flyers distributed, a gunshot that pierced the window of a Indiana synagogue classroom.

What you did not see, what you could not have sensed, was the bravery and the strength of spirit displayed by the family you've never really come to know.

None of this is what you know. This is America. This is not a war zone where everyday reality drills everyone in coping with the prospect of an imminent explosion. This is not a place where tragic news has visited every household. No one was prepared for this. And yet they have come through with remarkable composure and courage and commitment.

They have stood up to hatred. Their communities are stronger and closer than before.

Moreover, American Jews have worked hand in hand with Muslims for mutual aid at a time of crisis. When the only mosque in the small town of Victoria, Texas, was destroyed in a fire that followed the announcement of the administration's first travel ban, mosque co-founder Shahid Hashmi said,"Jewish community members walked into my home and gave me a key to the synagogue."

When headstones were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Muslim non-profit activists raised some $120,000 to help restore them.

Something is happening to American Jews. The community is producing rabbis unafraid to redefine what it means to be a Jew. Changing Judaism for the better. Changing America for the better.

And there's something else.

I'd like to introduce you to the baseball team which is playing for people like you. 

You might not have heard much about them before last week. Chances are, you still haven't. But this is not just another team. In a sport which is an intense, chess-like standoff punctuated by unlikely and explosive miracles, this is a team of unlikely and explosive miracles.

In a matter of days, these players defeated four of the best teams in the world.

And they have the word Israel sewn onto their jerseys.

What does any of this have to do with you? I'm not asking you to care about this most un-Israeli – but in some ways, the most Jewish- of sports. I am asking you only to watch – just once – how these American Jews play.

This is what you'll see in these guys:

Patience.

Respect for their adversaries.

Respect for themselves.

Modesty.

Professionalism.

Calm.

Refusal to resort to excuses.

Refusal to fold when comfortably ahead.

Refusal to quit when clearly behind.

Granting the team precedence over the individual, the ego.

Clarity.

Recognition that miracles are the direct result of hard work.

Appreciation that miracles don't come often.

Heart.

These guys have a lot to offer. They have a lot to offer you. I'm not saying you have to change, or be more like them. I'm just saying it's time you met the family.