According to a study published by Pew Research Center, two years into the pandemic, “a growing share of Americans appear ready to move on to a new normal, even as the exact contours of that new normal are hard to discern.” Although “the official count of coronavirus deaths in the United States … is now approaching 1 million lives,” writes the research center in another report, and the excess mortality due to Covid-19 stands at 20 percent, Americans desperately want to resume normalcy. Unemployment has dropped to pre-pandemic levels, children are at school, businesses are open, and sports and entertainment events are running almost as before. But escalating violence, a deepening divide between red and blue, and the plunging popularity of the president indicate that a new normal will have to mean a new society.
The American people are very different from most other nations. It did not emerge from a core group of related people, a clan that evolved into a tribe, which grew into a nation. The United States is a country of immigrants or descendants of immigrants. People of all backgrounds, nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, and faiths inhabit it. Often, these nationalities, cultures, and faiths carried with them centuries of enmity when they came to the “land of unlimited possibilities.”
While in the past, it seemed like the American people have managed to overcome the chasms and develop a distinctive identity, it now appears that the fabric of society is tearing at the seams. The last presidential elections have deepened the division between Republicans and Democrats, and the time since the elections has only made matters worse.
Also, racial tensions have been growing once again, and the Critical Race Theory is being warmly adopted in some states, and vehemently rejected in others. At times, it seems as though America is on the verge of another civil war.
In light of the situation, I think that America should treat the chasms as a calling for its people to finally mend the rifts and glue the individuals into a cohesive nation. America has all the resources, all the know-how, and every reason to exert in this direction since its future depends on the solidarity among its people more than on anything else.
In regards to cohesion and solidarity, I think that American Jews can and should play a major role in fostering unity. Being a nation that emerged much like the American people—when people from different, often vying tribes and clans joined together—the Jews have it in their DNA to connect above differences.
At the moment, Jews are divided more than any other nation, faith, or ethnicity on the planet, but the seed of unity is buried in the unconscious of every Jewish person. It was King Solomon who wrote, “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes” (Prov. 10:12), and it is the Jewish people who were commanded not to hate their brethren and love their neighbors as themselves (Lev. 19). At times when we observed these commandments, we were a light unto nations; when we turned away from each other, the world turned against us.
If American Jewry unites its broken ranks, it will set an example that the rest of America will gladly follow. And if America unites, it will be an example to all of humanity.
It may be ironic, but it seems as though the war in Ukraine has given America something to unite around: their objection to Russia’s invasion into Ukraine. A newly found unity will give America the power it needs in standing up to Russia. If leveraged correctly, it can put the American society back on track toward realizing the pledge of allegiance to be “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Bethany Stief works from home while twin six-year-old girls Nora and Willa attend online school amid surging COVID-19 cases caused by the coronavirus Omicron variant, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada January 7, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio