I spend a good part of last week in Washington D.C. at the Jewish Federations of North American (formerly the United Jewish Communities) General Assembly. This gathering of over 3000 Jews from across North America, and the world, is an amazing experience of the diversity and eclectic nature of the Jewish people.
I think that all Jews, from time to time, think that they are the “average” or “normal” type of Jew. We often forget that there are so many other types of Jews out there, and that so many of them are living very connected Jewish lives. It’s important to have experiences like these with different types of Jews in order to break that feeling of homogeneity.
I had the opportunity over the course of the program to participate in a session run by and for a group of young and passion Jewish Social Entrepreneurs. I was sitting at a table with an active and involved Jewish atheist, two representatives from Keshet (working towards the full inclusion of LGBT Jews in Jewish life) and other types of Jews I rarely have the honor to connect with. As one of the few Orthodox Jews in the room, I was as unique as everyone else – I felt a strong sense of achdut in that moment of plurality.
There is often a misnomer in the Orthodox community that we are the only keepers of the Torah, and that the other denominations mostly consist of lazy or apathetic Jews. In reality, there are so many passionate and educated Jews out there in the world that we are simply ignorant about. We need to break out of our shell, and appreciate the diversity and richness of the Jewish people today.
As a kehilla we need to continue to strive for more of these experiences that bring us together as Jews. We will all benefit from knowing more about eachother, learning from one another, and bonding closer together in our peoplehood.
I look forward to building upon my GA experience at Limmud NY 2010 – will I see you there?