Israel and I

By Libo, Kenneth | Midstream, September-October 2008 | Go to article overview

Israel and I


Libo, Kenneth, Midstream


During the height of the Holocaust my father cut out a "Various Matters" item from the local paper, the Norwich, Connecticut Bulletin, noting the deaths of thousands of Jews in and around his hometown of Minsk. That clipping remained with him until his death next to a wallet-size photo of his mother and a carefully preserved Forverts headline proclaiming the birth of the State of Israel.

My father was much more of a Jew than I can ever hope to be. The product of an observant eastern European Jewish family, his mama loshn was Yiddish and his unconditional support of the State of Israel was matched only by his unwavering loyalty to the United States. On the farm in Connecticut where I grew up my father raised a million chickens. That farm for him was as much a part of k'lal yisroel as Haifa or Tel Aviv. Among his most prized possessions were a New London County deed of land ownership with his name on it and a miniature U.S. flag he received upon becoming a naturalized American.

My family's total commitment to the State of Israel never came into conflict with the enormous pride we took in being American Jews. Far from it! Actually, we came to see Israel as an extension of America, a fifty-first state governed by Jews entitled to special consideration from Congress and the President as survivors of the Holocaust. Such were our views, which we voiced freely among ourselves.

The Jewish community I grew up in supported Israel one hundred percent. I remember in particular going with my parents to a "Bonds for Israel" lecture by former U.S. ambassador to Israel James G. McDonald. The opportunity to shake the hand of a man who wrote a book on Israel inscribed to me was an event in my young life on a par with my bar-mitzvah. Another "Bonds for Israel" event featuring the Israeli Philharmonic provided me with my first exposure to a live orchestra. I shared the pride my parents took in Israel; it enlarged our horizons in many ways. However, it wasn't until I visited Israel to curate an exhibition for Beth Hatefutsoth, The Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, on early Jewish life in America that I experienced life in the Promised Land firsthand. …

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