“We sent cameras to Jews all over the world,” according to a Diaspora Affairs Ministry infomercial that’s broadcast on Channel 2 every evening before 6 P.M. “Shalom Israel, I’m Renee from Sao Paulo,” says a smiling 44-year-old woman.
Shalom Renee. Twenty percent of Israeli citizens are Arabs. It’s a common mistake of Jews who don’t live in Israel to think that there are only Jews in Israel. So what do you want from us?
“In Brazil it’s very easy to assimilate,” says Renee, explaining her problems to us, “and therefore it’s important for the children to be in a Jewish environment.”
To illustrate a “Jewish environment,” Renee shows photographs of challah, a prayer book, a curtain for the Holy Ark with the inscription “It is a tree of life for those who take hold of it,” and a picture of herself kissing a mezuzah. She does this after pointing with pride to “the synagogue that I’ve been attending since childhood.”
So look here, Renee. First of all, don’t be afraid of assimilation. Being a Jew isn’t a person’s outstanding characteristic. It’s okay if your children fall in love with non-Jewish people and raise non-Jewish children. It’s totally fine. There are many wonderful people around the world and most aren’t Jews.
What’s so important about being Jewish? The racism? In addition, Jewish identity doesn’t only mean challah, prayers and mezuzahs. I, for example, refuse to kiss mezuzahs and pray in a synagogue, because I find it silly. So what do we have in common, you and I?
“I work for the community fund,” explains Renee. “That’s an organization that helps Israel. I attend Israel Independence Day celebrations. It’s a very joyous day here in the community.”
To be precise, Renee, your organization only helps Jews in Israel. And I want to say to you, on my own behalf, thanks but we don’t need your help. I as an Israeli share no common destiny with you. After 68 years of Israel’s existence, my shared destiny is with the Arabs and Jews who live in Israel, not with the Jews who live in Sao Paulo.
You’re Brazilian, I’m Israeli. You have a shared destiny with Brazilians. According to the photos, you enjoy a high standard of living. Help the poor of your city, not Israel. Many people in Brazil need help. The fact that both your husband and I say l’chaim when we raise a glass isn’t a shared destiny. It’s folklore.
According to the broadcast, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry works to strengthen mutual responsibility with world Jewry, which is called “our large family all over the world.” The goal is to create “a shared Jewish future.”
Renee, don’t take this hard, but my shared future is with Israelis of Muslim and Jewish origin. And your shared destiny is with Brazilian Catholics, just as the shared future of French Catholics is with French Muslims, not Brazilian Catholics. It was nice meeting you, Renee. Bye.
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