Taking pride in one's country is not difficult or unusual for Jews. Since the Middle Ages, Jewish prayerbooks have included prayers for the nation in which the community resides and for its government. Historically, many of these prayers have been tailored for a particular Jewish community, even mentioning the name of the king or the branches of the government and wishing them success. Because the establishment of a just government is a fundamental requirement of Jewish law, Jews have sensed a duty to pray for the wellbeing of their national leaders and the health of their nation.
Never before, though, have Jews had more reason to feel devotion and love for a non-Jewish nation than Jews in the United States feel for their country today. This country has given Jews all the rights enjoyed by other citizens. No country in human history has done more to protect the rights of religious minorities than the United States. As a result, Jews have thrived in this country.
Would you believe that there is a minyan of ten Jews in the U.S. Senate today? (They are: Richard Blumenthal [D-CT], Barbara Boxer [D-CA], Ben Cardin [D-MD], Diane Feinstein [D-CA], Al Franken [D-MN], Carl Levin [D-MI], Bernie Sanders [I-VT], Brian Schatz [D-HI], Charles Schumer [D-NY], and Ron Wyden [D-OR]). There are 22 Jewish members of the House of Representatives, including the Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-VA). Three of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are Jews (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan). Nearly as much as Jews have embraced being Americans, America has embraced the Jewish people.
American Jews sometimes feel squeamish about pointing out the success we have enjoyed in this country, as if somebody might point a finger at us and say, "That's too much." There was a time when Jews felt rightly vulnerable to such accusations. Today, though, I feel that the scales have tipped. The vast majority of Americans, I believe, see the success of the Jewish people in this country as a sign of our country's greatness. While the rest of the world was expelling us from their borders, imprisoning us in ghettos, or keeping us impoverished with oppressive sanctions, it was the United States that benefited itself by giving the Jewish people the freedom to succeed.
Jews have a lot of reason to feel joyful about living in "the land of the free and the home of the brave." On this sunny and beautiful Fourth of July, we rejoice in a country that does more than any other to protect religious freedom, and a country to which the Jewish people have contributed so much.
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