Many years ago, I witnessed a fascinating conversation between two Israeli politicians. One of them, at the time, was my boss.
Faced with a demand for ‘unity’ (achdut) in the party ranks, for a single leader and a single organization, he thought for a moment. Israeli politics is filled with demands for unity – but sometimes it’s at the expense of the disenfranchised. Every few years you may hear a cry for unity, but if you’re not careful it may ignore the needs of those who are different. That’s not to say that we don’t need unity. But we need sensitivity, respect, and humility too.
After thinking for a while, he declared: “what we need is indeed unity. But what we don’t need is uniformity (achidut).” We don’t need everyone to be the same, to look the same, to talk the same. We need to celebrate the strengths and diversity of what we have. We need to talk.
That’s what I’ve been noticing in our community these past few months. We have immense sources of strength in so many areas, and there are some fascinating convergences where the federation is helpful, useful, and meaningful.
On Sunday, I’m going to be moderating a discussion between Rabbi Greg Litcofsky, a Reform Rabbi from Temple Emanu-El of West Essex, and Rabbi Elie Mischel, an Orthodox Rabbi from the Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center. They’re both inspiring, charismatic, and engaging community leaders. I’m honored to be the moderator. And it’s a good lesson for us: sometimes you need a federation to bring people together.
Not because we’re all the same, or should be the same. But rather because when we learn together, and meet together – amazing things happen. Sometimes, when you look for unity, you find amazing power.
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