Friday, January 28, 2022

Do we seek commonalities or do we focus on differences? Unite or divide? This, to me, is the underlying issue.

The sad old joke of a Jew rescued from a desert island. He had built two synagogues. “Why two?” he is asked. “There I don’t go!” he replies, pointing to one of the structures.

To the antisemite, nuances don’t matter. Someone whose paternal grandfather was Jewish and thus carries a Jewish-sounding name is a target,while someone who is halachically Jewish because of their maternal grandmother may be ignored because their progenitor intermarried and they carry a gentile name. At 50,000 feet the definitions get obscured. The Jew who never sees the inside of a shul and the Jew who davens three times daily are each vilified.

We as a community seem to relish adjectives and defining descriptors: Modern Orthodox, Mizrachi, TEFFB (Torah educated, frum from birth), Open Orthodox, Yeshivish, Lubavitch, Kipa Sruga … We dissect with relish.

I’ve been to communities where a Jew wearing overalls and a flannel shirt could daven next to a Jew wearing a kaputeh, and sadly, I’ve been to other communities whereupon seeing each other these two Jews would cross to the other side of the street to avoid greeting their fellow Jew.

In Northern New Jersey we have the luxury of choice—choice in schools, yeshivas, synagogues. Let’s not abuse our community by building fences instead of bridges.

Carl Singer

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