Thursday, June 6, 2013

Is There Any Hope For Jewish Unity ?

I really wanted to post something that is light and that you can enjoy while sipping your favorite latte. I was thinking of sharing some thoughts on how to perfect the art of making sushi rolls. Or perhaps to voice the thoughts of a frustrated baseball fan who has seen the umpires blow so many calls this season and not having the mentschlichkeit to consider that they were wrong. I think they would be wise to look at the NFL which does allow the rulings on the field to be challenged. However important (or not) these issues are, I feel there is something far more pressing to commentt on.

I was reading about a story that took place in Germany last month. First, I thought that it just can't be true and that I had misread the article. I had to read it again. 

A meeting of the elected leadership of the conflict- ridden Berlin Jewish community –Germany’s largest with 10,500 members – spilled over into physical attacks on Thursday due to disputes over the 2013 budget.

The session turned “brutal,” said one observer at the community’s representative meeting to The Jerusalem Post.

The daily Berlin Der Tagesspiegel 
 reported on Friday that “some members were choked” when community members, including supporters of the head of the community, attacked opposition members during a break in the meeting.

Criminal complaints were filed and the police appeared at the representative meeting.

 So he we are in 2013 and there is a fight that breaks out among Jews in Berlin, and the German police are called in to make peace! Can things get any crazier? The truth of the matter is that I am in no position to comment on the specifics about the situation and pass judgment as to who bears responsibility for that specific incident.

Rather, this makes me extremely sad. There is so much division and mistrust among different groups of Klal Yisrael today, it is quite disheartening. Many times this stems from insisting that one particular derech is morally superior to a different derech. The devastating consequences cannot be overemphasized when you have of Jews that view another group of Jews with suspicion or even hostility.

 These thoughts weigh on me as I read the this weeks parsha. We learn about the story of Korach who was a cousin of Moshe and waged a bitter rebellion against him. He demanded that he receive more recognition and respect. He was so charismatic that he was able to attract quite a following to join him in his ill-advised struggle. Ultimately, like so many other cases of infighting the consequences for Korach  and his followers were catastrophic.

I once heard a powerful story form one of my rabbis in Israel. He was once in the Boston airport waiting to board a flight and he met a gentleman from Israel who was clearly not observant. They started having a very friendly conversation in Hebrew and exchanged some traveling tips. After about 15 minutes, the rabbi said to his new friend “Do you realize that had we met in Israel we probably would have not even acknowledged each other? After all, if our appearances and set of values are so different, we would of not even paid attention to each other. Why is it that we can get along much better in Boston than Jerusalem? His new friend nodded in agreement. The wise rabbi responded, that in Jerusalem we tend to emphasize the differences we have with one another whereas in Boston we tend to emphasize the things that we have in common. In Jerusalem, they were clearly different – the rabbi with a black hat and the Israeli tourist with a t shirt and shorts. In Boston, they are clearly similar – they both speak Hebrew.

I think that is something we really have to contemplate. Despite the many differences we may have with our Jewish brothers and sisters, we must focus on things that unite us rather than divide us. We have a common bond all the way back from Mt. Sinai in which we collectively accepted God's mission here on earth. It goes against the most basic Torah values to erect artificial barriers that separate us. In fact, Rashi points out that immediately prior to receiving the Torah, the Jewish nation at Mt. Sinai we were unified like one person with one heart.

We must look back in the rear view mirror of history and realize that we been the strongest when we stood together and the weakest when we stand apart. Or, as I once it heard on a lighter note --- We are One nation, under God, indivisible, with kugel and chicken soup for all.

 Please share your thoughts.


  1. Rabbi Fisch, thank you for sharing a link to your article via Facebook. I've enjoyed learning Torah with you today. Shalom Kent

  2. Awesome, I love it! Can't wait to meet you guys!
    Jen Wise :)

    1. We're looking forward too!

      Rabbi Fisch, I really liked the pledge of allegiance to good Shabbos food.

    2. We are looking forward as well.

      Shavua Tov !

  3. Great topic, Rabbi! Isn't this issue caused the Temple destruction and will ultimately bring the Masiach with the restoration of the Temple? Could you go deeper into this subject and offer solutions for the alienation between Jews? How could we bridge and foster unity between the various Jewish facets and sects? From my educational experience in Israel through Highschool, I can attest that there is no connection between secular and orthodox Jews because there is no attempt to learn and understand each other's lifestyle. What drives us to be intollerant towards other Jews that look or act differently than us? The state of Israel and its welfare seems to unite most of us. Are we maximizing this as a unifying element or can we identify something more powerful that will work better? As you can tell, I have been contemplating this issue for quiet some time, and I would love to see it expanded here or in any forum. It's time we seek results over our desire to be right.

  4. Amnon,

    I appreciate your feedback. I think the lack of Jewish unity is more serious in Israel where the relationship between the religous and secular community is so polarized. i think it would have to be a grassroots movement where individuals have to start focusing on the things that unite us rather than divide us.

    Shavua Tov !


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