NASHVILLE: For many Americans, September 11 is just a normal day. From Sunday night on September 9th through Tuesday night on the 11th, Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Seventeen years have passed since Islamist terrorists hijacked four American planes and murdered nearly 3,000 people. For too many Americans, the worst attack on American soil has faded with time.
In 2020, young people will cast their first votes in a presidential election. They will not have even been born when the 9/11 attacks occurred.
For many other Americans including me, 9/11 will never be a normal day. Every moment between September 10 and 12 is filled with emotions that engulf us. The stories have been told and retold, but the emotions remain raw. While others cannot watch any of the coverage, others are unable to turn away.
2018 is also meaningful because as in 2001, this September 11 falls on a Tuesday. America came under attack on a Tuesday. On this anniversary, prayers for a “sweet year” and prayers for all those that died, collide.
September 11 – Remembering Death. And Life.
On September 11, 2018, Jews will be celebrating the Jewish New Year. We will be shedding tears of joy as our New Year feasts conclude at sundown on September 11. As Americans, we will also remember and grieve for all that was lost on September 11, 2001.
There will be grieving in synagogues all over the world, and rabbis will blow a ram’s horn known as a Shofar. The sound of the shofar symbolizes our tears. Including the tears shed on September 11, 2001, and every day of the last seventeen years.
Tears of grief and the laughter of life
While we, as a people, do not forget those that died from hate, we are commanded by our Hebrew God to find joy and start anew. While non-Jews will be remembering deaths, Jews will be wishing every Jewish person we know the opposite message.
“May you be inscribed in the book of life.”
The contrasting images could not be starker. However, they are both valid. Americans comprise a nation of people. Jews belong to a religion that has its adherents scattered throughout the world.
On the night of September 18, Jews begin a 24 hour fast for Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. We apologize for our sins and vow to be better people in the coming year. Reflecting on September 11, Americans have absolutely nothing to apologize for. We were the victims, the people wronged.
On Tuesday, September 11, Americans confront the lowest of lows. Jews will be enjoying the highest of highs. Despite this contrast, there is one thing non-Jews in the United States must understand about Jews in the United States. We are proud Americans.
Compatibility and conflict
There is zero conflict between being Jewish and being American. Being Jewish and American are entwined on this day. For Islamists, the two nations they hate the most are America and Israel. And on this day, both America and Israel will stop in remembrance of the past and hope for the future.
For those failing to understand radical Islam, the illusion is the Islamists hate America because we support Israel. This is backward. They hate Israel because it reminds them of America. They only refer to Israel as “Little Satan.” They regard America as “The great Satan.”
While most Americans are not Jewish, America is a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values. The September 11 hijackers always want to kill Jews and anyone who allows Jews to live in peace.
So as we Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah, we are defying the wishes of the terrorists. We are not grieving. We are celebrating being alive. We do so because we have traditions that go back 5,779 years.
And we do so because our Hebrew God Hashem commands us to do so.
The true meaning of America and American Values during Rosh Hashanah and 9/11 2018
Non-Jews may not see us or hear from their Jewish brethren on 9/11. However, out of sight is not out of mind. In America, Jews are Americans. We deeply love American values, even as we frequently internally argue over what those values are. Therefore, on this 9/11 of 2018, we stand in solidarity with all Americans. We remember the fallen. We think of the phrase made famous by the Holocaust: Never again.
Like many of our fellow non-Jewish Americans, we will use the day of 9/11 to pray for peace.
To those celebrating Rosh Hashanah or spending a quiet spiritual 9/11 day in quiet reflection, there is only one thing to say.
— Headline image: Hasidic Jews performing tashlikh on Rosh Hashanah, painting by Aleksander Gierymski, 1884. (Public domain image via Wikipedia entry on Rosh Hashana)