[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 13 – Jewish Peoplehood: What does it mean? Why is it important? How do we nurture it? – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.]
What if there is no Definition to Jewish Peoplehood?
Can the Jewish People Still Exist?
By Anna Michel
Jewish Peoplehood? Peoplehood? People? Belonging? In the past few decades we have been constantly trying to look at what defines us, what unites us, but maybe the answer is that there is no simple answer. Maybe, there is no answer at all? Maybe, we need to accept and embrace the fact that we cannot and will not find an answer. We need to accept the diversity from within and embrace all answers that our fellow Jews bring to the table. Look at it as a human body where each Jewish community, each Jew, represent a synapse in our nervous system, each dot is important to create the next connection and without it the body would not be able to function. What is the heart then you may ask? For me, it is our traditions, history, values, culture, customs and everything that we define as part of our Jewish lives.
It’s not obvious to all of us why we need this body. The question of why we are alive is as ancient as the world. Many philosophers tried to give meaning to the Jewish People’s question “Why are we here? Why do we exist?” The question, “Why should we continue?” is no different. Brassaï (Gyula Halász), a Hungarian photographer who lived in the 20th century once said “Sometimes we wonder if life has meaning… and then we encounter that someone who gives meaning to our life.” It doesn’t matter why we are alive as it is a fact. There is a Jewish People. The more interesting question is what meaning do we give to its existence? What are the connections we make and who are the people that share our path in the past, the present and future?
So how do we sustain this body? How do we keep it alive, growing and moving? We do so by nurturing the heart and by making sure that all of the connections are alive and part of the bigger picture. In JCC Global, we make sure this network of connections is created and working. We create new connections on a daily basis and revive old ones, by bringing together leaders, educators, professionals, volunteers and community members to share their practice, their thoughts and ideas. Through our ‘Amitim-Fellows – A Global Leadership Network’ program we were able to bring together almost 30 community members from 12 countries to talk and share ideas. Now, these individuals are developing projects for Jews of all ages in the hope that members of their communities will become more involved not only locally but also learn that they have family around the world. Hopefully, these Fellows will share the feelings they had when they first met each other. Hopefully they will realize that there are Jews from all over the world and that we are all connected, with one heart.
By creating the network, enabling the exchange of ideas and practice, thinking of new ways to bring Jews into these conversations and connecting them, we keep our body alive, we keep the Jewish People alive. And as long as we’re alive, we can keep looking for interesting answers to what being a Jewish People is all about.
Anna Michel is the Program Director at JCC Global – an umbrella organization representing more than 1,100 JCCs worldwide. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 13 – Jewish Peoplehood: What does it mean? Why is it important? How do we nurture it? – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.