I pledge allegiance to three flags
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I pledge allegiance to three flags

Craig Scheff was raised in Rockland County; after practicing law in Boston for three years, he returned to New York to study for the rabbinate at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He has been at the Orangetown Jewish Center in Orangeburg since 1995. Rabbi Scheff has worked in various positions at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack for two decades and is an adjunct lecturer in professional skills at JTS.

The first flag, of the United States of America
And to the republic for which it stands
One nation
Under God
Indivisible
With liberty and justice for all;
The second flag, of the State of Israel
And to the hope for which it stands
One People
Sharing a prophetic vision of God’s sovereignty
United in diversity
With equal rights and religious freedom for all;
The third flag, the Rainbow of Pride
And to the sexuality and gender identities for which it stands
One emanation of God refracted in a multitude of ways
Indistinguishable as humans in the Divine image
With love for and inclusion of all.

My allegiance to any one of these three flags does not preclude my allegiance to any other. I can raise them side by side and pledge myself to each, for they are in consonance with one another. In fact, each demands my allegiance to the others. To believe in that which the American flag symbolizes is to believe in that which the others symbolize.

And though we sometimes fall short — as communities and as individuals — of the ideals to which we profess to aspire when we wrap ourselves in those flags, in pledging our allegiance we nonetheless commit ourselves to working toward the realization of the aspirations each represents. We pledge to respect the rule of law; we pledge to exercise our right to advocate, educate, and vote; we pledge to demand that every person be treated equally, regardless of race, religion, gender, or romantic orientation.

In the short span of seven days, I will have paid honor in memorium to those who sacrificed their lives so that we could breathe freely as Americans, even as I lament the treatment of families at our borders; I will have marched up Fifth Avenue to celebrate the State of Israel and its remarkable achievements, even as I let it be known that I am a concerned stakeholder in the ongoing Zionist project; and I will have celebrated Pride Shabbat at our synagogue as an introduction to a month of events in and around our community, even as I know we have so much education to do before “inclusion” no longer needs a committee of its own.

So the next time someone asks how it is that one can pledge allegiance to three different flags, tell them that it is your God-given right and responsibility to do so. And then ask them how it is that they don’t.

— Rabbi Craig Scheff

Craig Scheff is a rabbi at the Orangetown Jewish Center in Orangeburg, where he has been since 1995. Rabbi Scheff has worked in various positions at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack for two decades and is an adjunct lecturer in professional skills at JTS.

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