Do “We Need to Talk”?
We. Sure. Do.

By Dr. Chaim Y. Botwinick

[Posted as a comment to “Analysis: The GA’s ‘We Need to Talk’ Slogan is a Desperate Plea to Save Israel-U.S. Jewish Ties.”]

The GA’s recent “We Need to Talk” slogan is an important one, anchored in years of political and ideological debate, discourse, divisiveness and disappointment. The need for greater understanding, articulation and respect between Israel and American Jewry has reached a threshold which threatens to destroy the very cohesiveness of our Jewish community. To be sure, the “We Need to Talk” campaign or slogan may be the organized Jewish community’s last ditch desperate effort or attempt to implore a new meaningful relationship between our two communities which has slowly been eroded over the past two decades.

Given the complexity of this challenge and the daunting challenge it presents to the organized Jewish community (read Federations), at the risk of sounding somewhat trite or simplistic, I would like to humbly suggest that American Jewry and the organized Jewish community begin looking inwardly for viable responses and solutions.

Although the challenges may not always be mutually exclusive, maybe, just maybe, “we need to talk” about the state of the American Jewish community before we resolve the divide between our community and Israel. Yes, all politics are local; and, so are the challenges facing our American Jewish communities. To be sure, how can we even begin to attempt a resolution for unity between the Israel and American Jewry, when our own houses are in dire need of repair.

The level of disunity, lack of trust, disharmony and unabashed animosity between members of our Jewish community – whether it be social, political or religious – threatens to destroy the very fabric (let alone unity) of our Jewish community.

Where is the sense of urgency regarding our own internal divisiveness? Where is the organized Jewish community in uniting our communities? Why is it easier, more convenient or “safer” to talk about our relationship to Israel, than it is to address the evolving issues and challenges in our own back-yard?

Support for Israel should be absolutely paramount. We should never ever God forbid disregard the centrality of Israel or critically important relationship between our two communities. Israel is our birthright as clearly referenced in our Torah; and, it will always remain so. However, the challenge is not an either, or. Its about getting our house in order so that we can better position ourselves to respond to the unmet need for support on both sides of the pond.

So, do “we need to talk”? We sure do. As the flight attendant announced. ….. “in the event there is a drop in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down for your use. If you have a child or infant, first give yourself the oxygen before the child.”

The rest is commentary.

Dr. Botwinick was the executive vice president of the Center for Jewish Education in Baltimore and senior educational consultant to THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.