But arguably the biggest challenge facing world Jewry today is our lack of unity. We all seem to come with a label. Either you’re a haredi Jew, a Reform Jew, a Religious Zionist, a Conservative Jew, a Hasidic Jew etc. etc. We are constantly trying to find a pigeonhole to place each other into. This creates divisiveness. Why shouldn’t the title ‘Jew’ be good enough for us?
The answer is simple. We humans have a tendency to always try and accentuate our differences rather than the things that we have in common. This is what allows one human to kill another. If all we saw was the common humanity in the other person we would never be able to go to war against others, we wouldn’t fight with each other. Instead we focus on what is different and why the other person is wrong and we are right.
We Jews have been through too much to allow our differences to overshadow the immense amount we have in common. But this is easier said than done. The reality is that every since Abraham Geiger founded the Reform Movement in the early 1800’s the gaps between Jews have grown larger and larger. In reality my theology and beliefs as an Orthodox Jew has more in common with some of my Christian colleagues and with many clergymen and women from the Reform, Reconstructionist and Humanistic movements of Judaism. How can we come together if our beliefs and practices are so far apart?
Serving Jewish communityThe answer has been offered by a new initiative that was started here in Colorado. Rose Community Foundation recently launched a program entitled Mazel Tot. It is a website where young Jewish parents can visit to gain information about, and discounts to, a whole range of programs that are directed towards Jewish children under five years old. This initiative has brought together under one umbrella 29 diverse and disparate Jewish organizations from throughout the Denver and Boulder region.
None of us were asked to agree with another organization’s ideology or to do programming together with them. Instead Mazel Tot brought out the thing that we all have in common: We are all here to serve the Jewish community.
Ultimately the only way to bring different movements within Judaism together is to focus on what we have in common and try to avoid any reference to theological and ideological differences. It is a waste of time and energy to try and get orthodox and reform rabbis to work together on a religious level.
Their views about Judaism are such polar opposites that each offends the sensibilities of the other. Instead non denominational organizations that don’t have any type of religious bias, such as Rose Community Foundation in Denver, should take leadership roles in bringing Jewish organizations together in areas that they do have in common. Rose Community Foundation is to be commended for its leadership here in modeling a common sense approach to Jewish unity. Let’s hope others follow their lead.
Rabbi Levi Brackman is author of Jewish Wisdom for Business Success: Lesson from the Torah and Other Ancient Texts