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Come Together

I’m baaaack!

The experience I had in Israel was unlike any other that I had ever had in my life. Being the only orthodox Jew in a group of over fifty Jewish leaders for a period of ten days straight was quite challenging. However, all of the participants came with a great desire to put their differences aside and really get to know each other, as well as learn the art of community building.  

One of the ways this was accomplished was by “circle time,” which took place every morning before beginning the day’s activities (they called it “shacharit”). During circle time, the entire cohort was divided into three groups, with three people from each group sharing their story. This was accompanied by an eye opening Q&A that helped us understand each other’s perspectives.

Instead of touring Israel, we spent most of our time visiting organizations and programs all over the country that work at building community and thereby, bridge the gaps between Israel’s diverse society. We saw beautiful mosaics of different types of Jews: Religious, Non-religious, Traditional, Ultra-religious, Secular, Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Russian, Ethiopian, etc., who are committed to working together in order to make Israel an even better place.

Our exposure to community building efforts was not limited to “Jew to Jew” relationships. Rather, we also saw efforts in the business sector that successfully bring together Jews and Arabs in the context of employment and business. In addition, we were treated to several phenomenal presentations that provided us with a far better understanding of the left – right divide of the Palestinian conflict.

The Israel that we saw is very different from the Israel that is usually in the news. Yes, there are many barriers that seemingly divide different segments of the population. However, those barriers, which many times play an important part of one’s identity, do not have to be barriers to having a relationship with the “other”.

The first “take away” from the trip was – the more you get to really know someone, the easier it is to overcome differences and be able to work together on projects of mutual interest and benefit. The big challenge is how to facilitate this. Over the course of the coming months, I intend to continue my “community building studies” and slowly but surely improve the quality of our Adath Israel community. In addition, since we don’t live in a vacuum, we also need to build bridges to the rest of the Jewish community for our own well-being and theirs. By bridging these gaps, we can create something far bigger than the sum of its parts.