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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Who Is Different From You?

I read a really interesting article in the Baltimore Jewish Times over Pesach. It was from a few weeks ago, and unfortunately I couldn't find the link, but I will try to summarize it because it told such a poignant story. The author of the article set the stage by describing a night a few weeks ago when two side-by-side shuls, one Orthodox, one Reform, had events on the same night. The event at the Reform shul was for high school students, I don't remember exactly what the topic was. However, at some point during the evening, the question was asked to the students, "Who are you different from? What groups of people are NOT like you?" The first answer from the high school students was "Orthodox Jews." Other answers followed, including "Arabs," "homosexuals," "goths," and others. How sad. These Jewish teenagers, who live in the same neighborhoods, shop at the same stores, and pass by each other on a daily basis, to the point of worshipping next door to one another, see themselves as different from each other as Jews and Arabs. It is so sad to me because I don't think it has to be that way. I have to admit that I didn't have the same challenges growing up; the Jewish communities I lived in were so small that everyone was close. Heck, most of everyone was related. Our youth groups weren't separated by synagogue, because there weren't enough members to go around. There was only one day school, because even one could barely sustain enough enrollment to stay open. So all the Jews mingles, whether Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox. Really, we mingled quite well with non-Jews also, because only a few went to the all-Jewish school, and there was no Jewish high school anyway. Which is why I find it tragic that a community that could be so strong and vibrant if everyone worked together, finds itself fragmented by different factions within the Jewish community. I think it is so sad that Reform Jewish teenagers see Orthodox Jewish teenagers as so different from themselves. And I have a feeling if the question had been asked of Orthodox teenagers, the answer would have been quite similar. I think we need to work harder on bringing all Jews together, on teaching our children to love ALL Jews, no matter what they wear or eat. I think activities where all Jews work together to benefit the community, as a whole, should be emphasized. I think we could learn so much from each other, and we are greatly missing out. A community is always stronger as a whole than in parts - I think it is time to work towards making that happen.


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