A Clarion Call for Jewish Unity

unityBy Rabbi Fivel Yedidya Glasser

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am struck by the proximity of this holiday to the recent Elections. I recently published a piece about how we can see Thanksgiving not only as a time for reflecting and appreciating, but also as a call to action.

I am proud to say that I have seen two types of positive reactions within the Jewish Community in response to the recent elections. Of the countless inspiring messages of building, motivating, mobilizing and working within the democratic process, two directions have emerged.

I have seen many who are committing themselves to support organizations that work with demographics that are more vulnerable like minorities, immigrants, refugees, GLBT, etc., as well as projects fighting gender discrimination and for the advancement of egalitarianism. This is valuable and important at this moment. There are many that feel that these strata of society were already vulnerable, and in light of the upcoming transition in the US Administration, want to make clear that those communities will have the resources necessary to continue advocating for them.

Whereas these are fantastic causes, doing essential work, and can most certainly benefit from every penny that is generously donated to them, I think if we turn only to these groups, we will have missed a unique opportunity.

We are hearing today about how divided the US is. We experienced over the last 18 months first-hand the disconnect between different factions, but November 8th was a wake-up call for how distant Americans are from each other, and how there is little to no meaningful conversation happening between the disparate groups.

If the US is going to remain a unified republic, there must be growth in the field of fostering significant and meaningful interaction between people with radically different world views and even value-systems. This work will not only protect those who are vulnerable, but will encourage all to recognize and confront the experiences of fellow Americans that live in a very different America from themselves.

Within the Jewish community, the data is not final, but the trends seem to indicate that although 71% of Jews that voted, voted for Hillary, when we look at a higher resolution, there was a different correlation with different Jewish communities. The liberal movements overwhelmingly supported Clinton, and in the Orthodox world, it was closer to 1 out of 2 that voted for Trump. This is striking and requires us to stand up and pay attention. We must respond to the growing rift between the Orthodox and the liberal Jewish worlds. It behooves us, in the name of Jewish Peoplehood, to cultivate opportunities for all Jews to meaningfully engage with each other through listening and sharing their different worldviews – especially now.

For over 30 years, Nesiya has been bringing Jewish teens from diverse backgrounds together to build supportive and caring community that celebrates the challenges inherent in learning about and caring for Jewish peers that see the world differently.

If we truly want to build a better future for our children, we must learn to communicate with, and even learn from those with whom we disagree. By doing this we will draw closer to the loving disagreements that existed between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, who understood that they were in it together, and that will be something that we can truly be thankful for!

Rabbi Fivel Yedidya Glasser is Executive Director of the Nesiya Institute.