About The Author
Chelsea Feuchs is the Communications and Social Media Associate for ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America. After studying for a year in Israel as a Dorot Fellow, she now works and lives in New York City.
My Dearest Israel,
This Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love, I think of you. After a year living in Jerusalem, of traveling to explore your northern forests and southern deserts, I write this letter from abroad. As I walk past the metallic buildings in Manhattan, I remember the glint of the sun on your limestone walls. I yearn to walk down your twisting alleyways late on a Friday night without fear as passersby wish me a Shabbat Shalom. I even miss the small tremor that would run through my body before entering the market, scared that I would forget the Hebrew word for cumin or eggplant. This Tu B’Av, Israel, I want you to know how much I love and miss you.
Still, I cannot help but feel a growing distance between us, that you are pushing me away at every opportunity. After years of negotiations, your government reneged on its agreement to embrace me and my Jewish practice at our holiest site. Your Chief Rabbinate does not consider my religious leaders and their conversions to be legitimate, and is seeking to codify this rejection more fully. For a country promoting the centrality of family, your institutions will not sanction the home I come from because I have two mothers. Rather than addressing this homophobia, your agencies use it as an excuse to prevent same-sex couples from adopting. It is becoming harder and harder to feel that we share the same values.
I want you to understand how deeply this rejection hurts. I pray to G-d with abounding faith and gratitude, frequently moved to tears by the beauty of this connection. But when I go to the holiest site in Judaism, I am forced to pray in a way that feels uncomfortable and diminishes that beauty. I know the incredible amount of effort Jews by choice put into their conversions, poring over sacred text and history books, practicing how to keep Shabbat and kashrut. To have a government belittle the gravity of this work and the validity of their communities is insulting. It is painful to hear top officials degrade same-sex families, and even more difficult to imagine the message this sends to LGBTQ youth about their future. This is not what you promised in your Declaration of Independence, and it is not fair to the millions of progressive Jews living both within and outside your borders who see you as their Homeland.
This Tu B’Av, I also want you to know how committed I am to you. I will continue to follow not only these fights for civil rights and religious freedom, but all news relevant to Israelis. I will continue to worry about the safety and wellbeing of your citizens, opposing and mourning violence against them in all forms. I will continue to travel to see you, hiking your trails, tasting your food, gaining a greater appreciation for your land and your people. I will continue to support the NGOs and nonprofits that work to build the fair, inclusive, democratic society you promised in your charter. And perhaps most importantly, I will continue to engage with you, making Israel a central component of my Jewish identity. As a progressive Diaspora Jew I have cause for anger and concern, but this is not the time to disengage. This Tu B’Av I vow that I will continue to show my love by fighting to make you the best state you can be.