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“My own family history is the story of America”

May 2024: May is Jewish American Heritage Month and we asked New York Counsel Isaac Tendler to tell us about his own experiences, and how his family history intersects with the story of American freedom.

The American experience has been shared by countless people of all walks of life

The common denominator was not religion or ethnicity, but rather individual freedom and individual responsibility. Observant Judaism adds the overriding element of G-d* into those two tenets. Our social contract notwithstanding, the Jewish relationship with G-d frames the reality of freedom and responsibility.

We are all creatures of routine

Some fight it and others revel in it, but all of us have routines that schedule our day and order our lives. Judaism is a regiment of observances that weaves G-d into the tapestry of our days and years, making Him central to everything we are, or at the very least, as a presence on the periphery of all we do. For example, what we eat, how we dress, the way we act, and how and when we pray.

The unique greatness of America is a gift from our founding fathers

As observant Jews, we have been able to maintain our routines and traditions and feel G-d's presence in the social contract we have with each other, and the greater contract that we have with G-d. My family and my ancestry is a testament to that uniqueness.

My own family history is the story of America

All four of my grandparents were orthodox, observant Jews and proud citizens of the USA. My father's paternal grandmother was a third-generation American whose great-grandparents came to America in the mid 1800s. My mother, a child of sole survivors of the Holocaust and the German concentration camps, is a first-generation American. Mine and my wife's upbringing was 100 percent orthodox and observant, and we are raising our five children in the exact same tradition.

Observant Judaism is more than 3,000 years old

It has outlived the many foes who attempted, and are attempting, to destroy us. America has been the truest of safe havens for the Jewish people from the founding of its nationhood and constitution until this day. Our gratitude to the United States for being that safe harbor is unqualified.

The greatest influence American culture has had on my Jewish identity ... the pride in being the truest citizen to our USA and the truest devotee to my Jewish orthodoxy. I have heroes who guide me professionally and religiously. Many are one and the same, and none have ever presented a conflict to my being the best citizen I can be and the best Jew I can be.

How do I keep it all together as a husband, father, professional and observant Jew?

It's not always easy, but it is what I was raised to be and do, and it is a tribute to this country that I and my family have the individual freedom to do so.

* The words God (and Lord) are written by some Jews as G-d and L-rd as a way of avoiding writing any name of God out in full. Many believe this to be a sign of respect.