The Fourth of July

July 1, 2016

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, July 1, 2016.

The Fourth of July

This Shabbat is the Shabbat before US Independence Day… looking forward to picnics and fireworks, and parades, and all of the other trappings of the Fourth of July. In fact… the JCC is organizing a JCC group to march with our Whitefish Bay neighbors in the Whitefish Bay Fourth of July Parade! (Click here to learn more about joining us at the parade) But, you might ask, is the Fourth of July a Jewish holiday? Independence Day (the holiday, not the Sci-Fi movie) is rooted in 18th century European enlightenment ideas of what it means to have an enlightened society. In the actual text of the Declaration of Independence, we are famously told that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These are unquestionably Enlightenment ideas brought to the shores of North America by our founding fathers. And if all human beings are indeed created equal, America became the first place in modern history that Jews we considered full citizens!

In fact, this idea was reinforced by none other than George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport Rhode Island. In responding to the good wishes of the congregation, Washington writes:

…happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support… May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

Jews, like all the other citizens of America, are entitled to all the rights, and bound by all the responsibilities of good citizenship in this new land. A great observation which is sometimes lost in the overall US citizenry lately. Rights AND Responsibilities.

Shabbat Shalom