july4thI have many memories of celebrating the Fourth of July by putting out our flags and going to parades and fireworks, and, of course, eating. I made many desserts with red, white, and blue fruit flags on top, both on a cake or skewers of fruit. It was a holiday when we all came together to celebrate our country, the founding of our country, and how it has developed over the years. I believe everyone in our country, from all backgrounds, ideologies, and politics, can be patriotic and join together in celebrating the Fourth of July. This is why I have been leading a unique service for the Shabbat near Independence Day for several years.

Growing up as a Jewish girl in America, I had a strong religious and national identity and experienced them comfortably intertwined. My Judaism and patriotism were rooted in the two narratives, reinforcing one another. As a Jew, I felt very much part of a people redeemed from slavery, and as an American, I believed I lived in a nation that exemplified the values of equality and freedom.

When I pledged allegiance every weekday morning in school to “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” I did so with a whole heart. The unity of that statement felt like an extension of the Shema prayer that I said at bedtime and sang at Shabbat Services.

Our ideals, the core values in our foundational documents- the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Amendments, are aspirational. We aspire for our country to be the land of the free for all, but we are not there yet.

It’s time to reach back into history and deep within ourselves to examine painful truths. We must understand that this country is “the land of the free” only for some. We may feel shame; we must feel discomfort. Let those feelings energize us towards change.

Please join me for a Fourth of July-themed Shabbat Service on July 5th in the Gumenick Chapel. The service will lift American and Jewish songs, prayers, and foundational texts from our past and today. The Shabbat Service will be followed by a potluck Oneg Shabbat so please bring something diary or vegetarian to share with others.

Shabbat Shalom