Shaya Cohen -


Give Credit Where Due: Stories Matter

There was no distinctive Ukrainian nation, until there was. There were no real Palestinian Arab people, until there was.

What created Ukrainians or Palestinians? Nothing more or less than the stories that they told themselves. The Ukrainians did it in less than ten years; the Palestinians took a generation. But they both did it: they forged a national consciousness and identity where there had been none before.

Indeed, the same could be said for just about any self-identity one can name. Statistically, “trans” may be a very small minority in biological terms. But there is no denying that in mental self-perception, the “trans” population is much bigger than ever before. If we actually care about people, we must first accept that what we view as mental illness is the accepted reality for millions of lost and confused young people.  

We conservatives have to stop thinking that “my truth” is a bug – to be quashed by THE TRUTH – and instead think of “my truth” as a feature. There is a very long precedent for acknowledging that our stories form our reality. After all, even before the Israelites leave Egypt, G-d explains how they are to tell the story:

And you are to tell your child on that day, saying:  It is because of what G-d did for me, when I went out of Egypt. (Ex. 13:8)

And when, in time to come, a child of yours asks you, saying, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall reply, ‘It was with a mighty hand that G-d brought us out from Egypt, the house of bondage. (Ex. 13:14)

Which tells us that the story of the Exodus could have been remembered and told in countlessly different ways. The way we choose to tell it shapes our reality and that of the listeners. This is what Passover, which starts this week, is all about: retelling, reliving our national birth story, creating it anew in our minds.

We are in a world of dueling stories. We need to tell our stories in ways that resonate, that speak to higher meaning and purpose in life. We need to help shape the reality that forms in peoples’ minds when they seek to understand themselves and the world around them.

Comments are welcome!