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Interfaith Day of Prayer, May 6, 2004

Rabbi Russell Fox, Emanuel Synagogue, Oklahoma City

 

 

Our torah says:  “Do not oppress the stranger—you know the soul of the strangers, for you wee slaves in the land of Egypt.”  For 1700 years of exile, from the destruction of our Temple in Jerusalem until the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, the Jewish people were strangers in a strange land, without state and without rights.  At best we were tolerated guest of the local nobility, at worst expelled, humiliated, made the scapegoat for every failure of man and nature.  With the establishment of a truly democratic state on this continent, the possibility for Jews to live as free and enfranchised citizens, under a national covenant that “all men are created equal”, was born.  America has been our safe haven from intolerance, hatred, and subjugation, to quote Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty:  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  Our democratic covenant is that as Americans, no one of us is ‘more American’ than another.  There is no race, no one religion, nor one culture which characterizes ‘real Americans’.  We are all real Americans!  As American Jews, we deeply treasure these fundamental human values of acceptance of diversity and freedom of expression which have made us a part of this nation and which have made this nation great.

 

Our Torah says:  “Do not oppress the stranger—you know the soul of strangers, for you were slaves in the land of Egypt.”  For the word ‘stranger’ we could substitute “minority’.  All democracy, if it is to survive, must constantly be on guard against the tyranny of the minority by the majority.  As Jews, we remember the Nazi regime, which planned and carried out the diabolical extermination of six million of our people and countless other ‘undesirable’, was initially voted into power in a democratic state.  We, who have witnessed within the span of human memory the descent of a modern nation from sophistication to depravity, say to all of you:  Be vigilant!  Americans should never be so smug as to assume that ‘it can’t happen here.’  The merit and wisdom of this nation’s founding fathers could yet be perverted to empty words and a shallow historical slogan.

 

Our sages of old taught:  “Every disagreement which is for the sake of Haven will endure, every disagreement which is not fro the sake of Heaven will not endure.”  We have always believed that God’s commandment to us is open to many interpretations.  Judaism is not and has never been monolithic.  So too, may it be today, that the Eternal One guide us to accept as fellow Americans all our differences and diversity which are for the sake of Heaven.  May our Golden Door never be tarnished!

 

Amen.

 

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