Thursday, December 30, 2010

Unity - Not Uniformity

As 2010 comes to an end and 2011 begins, there is an important question that continues to linger for Jews all around the world. Yet, the people who have the answer to this question remain the same - you and me. Here is how Avraham Infeld, President Emeritus of Hillel International, articulates the question:

As mentioned in the video, is it possible for Jews to be unified without being uniform? With all the different denominations of Judaism that have developed, and with all the inevitable changes that go along with modernity, can we remain a unified people without having the more uniform ways of generations past? If the posts on this blog reflect anything, it is that my answer is a definitive yes. But more Jews need to embrace this dilemma and work on a practical solution.

One way or another, I believe we are the generation that will ultimately solve this problem. As deep as some of our differences are, we will either muster up the moral courage to recognize all Jews as equal members of the same tribe, or circumstances will develop in which we will be forced to come to that conclusion. We are a unique blend of people unlike any other that has ever existed. If we don't remind ourselves of this, someone outside of Jewish circles will.

Although ritual observance is extremely significant, one's level of observance does not determine Jewishness.

Although political affiliation is extremely significant, one's political ideology does not determine Jewishness.

Although clothing is extremely significant, one's way of dress does not determine Jewishness.

These are just a sampling of differences often used to cause division among our people. The beauty of Judaism is that we can have different takes on the important issues of life and not be disbanded. It is our common past, present and future that unite us as much as anything. We have it within our power to display the significance of this common bond through decent behavior and good deeds.

Remember, it was an interpersonal dilemma that exiled us; it will be an interpersonal fix that redeems us. With God's help and sincere human efforts, we can succeed. To paraphrase former President John F. Kennedy: "We choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." It should go without saying that improving intra-Jewish relations will be difficult, but that is precisely why succeeding in this venture will be so rewarding.

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