Guest Author - Lisa Pinkus
Jewish unity. Is it a contradiction? An impossibility? The Ultimate goal of our people?
Unity – among the Jewish people in particular – is quite a paradox. We are one people and, yet, there are vast differences between us. We experience much discord between and even within the different denominations.
We bicker, battle and debate over who is right and who is wrong. The struggle arises from the need to have others believe and do as we do. After all, if we are doing what we believe is right, doesn’t that mean that everyone else is wrong?
The ability to accept that there is more than one way, more than one “right” way is difficult to attain. But, acceptance, tolerance and restraint from passing judgment are essential to Jewish unity. And the fine line between confidence in our own decisions and our assessment over the decisions of others is where unity lies.
It is all part of G-d’s plan, is it not? So, if G-d intended for us all to be different or if G-d knew that, eventually, there would be vast differences – then doesn’t G-d’s plan for Ahavas Yisrael (love for all Jewish people) to incorporate that? What is it that G-d wants from us? Does He want us all to come under the same umbrella wearing the same raincoat? Or, does G-d want us to stand together under the same umbrella wearing the raingear we’ve decided will protect us best?
Ahavas Yisrael tells me that I should not judge the Jew who goes to synagogue every week, who honors the holidays and fasts, who marries a Jew, raises his child as a Jew but who does not believe in G-d. Who am I to judge the individual who reconnected with Judaism because she found the music played during Saturday morning services so delightful? Who am I to judge the individual who does not turn on his computer (anymore) during Shabbos but does walk to the corner bakery for a doughnut and a cup of coffee on Shabbat? And, who am I to judge the woman who chooses to work fulltime and be the breadwinner for her family in order that her husband can study Torah all day?
We have such magnificent differences that lie above a foundation that connects us all. Celebrating it is a tremendous task and a huge part of accomplishing Jewish unity. Here are my ideas for creating Jewish unity in your community:
1. Step over a line. Invite an acquaintance over for Shabbat dinner – perhaps someone you met while doing volunteer work for a Jewish organization or someone you know in the community but have never socialized with.
2. Invite members from several different synagogues to participate in a mitzvah project together. Clean up a neighborhood park or walking trail. Visit a senior citizen home. Depending on the ages of the group you gather, there is an endless list of possibilities.
3. Subscribe to Jewish magazines published through various denominations of Judaism. Know what and how others are thinking – not for the sake of argument but for the sake of breaking down ignorance. A list of magazines for each denomination can be found in the Judaism forum.
4. Bring several local Jewish organizations together to invite a speaker to your community. There are many Jewish individuals on the speaking circuit who can be inspirational, uplifting and knowledgeable no matter which branch of Judaism you cling to.
5. Stop by the BellaOnline Forum. Start a conversation. Join a conversation. Talk about Jewish unity, Jewish thought or Jewish food! Learn something new. Ask a question. Speak with people from different denominations of Judaism, different countries or different religions all together.
6. Attend a Jewish Unity Live event, which occur in many cities throughout the United States and Canada. Speakers, musicians and other entertainers all contribute to the experience. (See the website below)
7. Join EJewish Philanthropy (website also below). Among other things EJewish Philanthropy sends a newsletter with updates on Jewish philanthropies, including valuable resource information for philanthropy organizations, links to their active blogs and resources for people who want to get more involved. You can also sign up for this year’s Jewish Social Action Month (JSAM).
8. Listen to Jewish music. I find when I turn off the news and turn on the music, the atmosphere in my car or home completely changes. You cannot help but get involved when you are listening to Israeli music or songs about the Jewish holidays. It’s like taking a quick visit to Israel – you feel it in your heart, in your pride, in your joy.
9. Gather some local women together for a reading of Psalms. Anyone can participate. You can read in English or Hebrew. You can recite Tehillim (Psalms) in the merit of someone who might need your prayers – the soldiers protecting Israel, a friend who is trying to get pregnant, someone who has been battling a difficult illness. You can find Tehillim online by doing a Google search.