My Name is
by David Conway
The Rabbi asked me to talk about something inspirational or inspiring to me. In my opinion the words that follow are multi dimensional and fall squarely within that category.
"My name is Daniel Pearl. I am a Jewish American from Encino, California USA. I come from, uh, on my fathers' side the family is Zionist. My father's Jewish, my mother's Jewish. My family follows Judaism. We've made numerous family visits to Israel. Back in the town of Bnai Brak there is a street named after my great grandfather Chaim Pearl who is one of the founders of the town."
These were the final words spoken by the Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. Uttered by him in a matter of fact way, the uh" in the opening statement is directly quoted emphasising the probable nervousness of the utterance.
I would like to break down Daniel Pearl's testament into its constituent elements as follows:
"I am a Jewish American" - With these words Daniel Pearl identified himself as being one in a long line of those comfortable in their Diaspora existence -proud of their heritage - his Jewishness bound up inextricably with his family's proud American heritage. These words make us think also of pre 1490's Spain where proud Jews retained their faith but like Maimonides, born in Cordoba Spain, they became advisers and consultants to kings. We look also to modern Europe & America where Jews have run in the US primaries for President, been Secretary's of State and served in high office.
"The family is Zionist" - This is a theme he returns to at the end with his dying words, but where he acknowledges the duality of the status of most of us in the Diaspora but confirming for him and his family the centrality of Israel.
"My father's Jewish, my Mother's Jewish - my family follows Judaism". But it is said that he was not a particularly observant Jew. But these words recall Temple days when Jews of all hues would visit the Temple in Jerusalem and be welcomed regardless of their degree of orthodoxy or the strength of their faith. Ruth famously said "Wherever you go I go" which I think is a statement transcending geography - it was a testament of her faith and of our religious journey - and I would like to think that this is what was really meant by Daniel Pearl when he referred to his family background. In so much as it could be said that we were all converted at Mount Sinai and entered a covenant, Ruth's acceptance was based on the Torah acceptance that the Children of Israel agreed to undertake.
And then we hear his closing words - recalling his grandfather, a street in Bnai Brak, and the founders of that town, all in one breath. I think Daniel Pearl was contrasting his legacy being one that remains and can be evidenced by something constructive, with those of his violent tormentors. He, Daniel Pearl, emphasised something lasting and eternal - a ner tamid-an eternal flame, "
"A town in Israel "- founded, as it was, by a group of Polish Ger Hassidim in the 19th Century - an agricultural settlement built from nothing, out of malaria ridden swamps. Bnai Brak is now renowned for its numerous voluntary agencies and charities. "
"A Street...named after my great grandfather" to this very day still used by thousands in memory of that grandfather and spoken of by Daniel Pearl but used by him as a fitting metaphor to express eloquently a journey of faith that continues for all of us in seeking Torah Judaism and to better ourselves.
This brief final testament by Daniel Pearl were words that inspired me and I hope that they inspire all of us during the course of this Shavuoth and beyond.