Achdus: An Appeal For Ideas
Many, many people were touched by the palpable sense of achdus during the 18 days in which we davened for the three abducted teens, and during the weeks of war that followed.
I know that groups of people have connected with each other (including “A-list” people in the charedi world), looking for practical ways to keep this spirit alive. Why, though, limit the discussion to these smaller groups? We’ve seen in the past that digitally turning to a wider audience has yielded great insight. We therefore ask you to think about ways in which to help bring disparate groups of Jews (especially disparate groups of Orthodox Jews) together. First and foremost, these methods should aim to increase respect (which is more than tolerance) for “others.”
I will start the process with a few ideas dealing specifically with the Orthodox community, and hope that they will jog the imagination of readers:
1) Research and find a tzedaka associated primarily with the “other” camp, and make regular, generous contributions [E.g. I would recommend JobKatif to readers on the charedi side]
2) Study a sefer that is associated with an important thinker of the other group
3) Spend time at an important institution of the other. (I remember decades ago hearing of R. Bulman’s zt”l visit to Mercaz HaRav in his early days in Israel, and how positively he was impressed.)
We intend to be stricter than usual in moderating responses. We are not open to comments about whether we should be doing this, etc. We will publish only comments that directly answer the question: “What practical steps can we take to prevent the feelings of achdus we experienced recently from vanishing?”
If the effort gets off the ground, we will BE”H collect and edit the responses and summarize results.
Go eat at your DL/Chareidi friend’s house. Figure out how to deal with any kashrut issue that may come up (it can be done) and have dinner or even spend a Shabbat there.
I endorse your sentiment. What you are saying is that the normal people need to control the agenda. Most intelligent people recognize that what untes us is much greater than what divides us,but there are many who feel that their way is the only way. Baltimore is known as a city of achdus and this is not maintained by inertia. Our leaders make a positive effort to keep shalom. On Taanis Esther,we had a Tehillim gathering for shalom and ahavas yisrael at a time of division. It was a direct response to the rallies in New York and Israel that said Tehillim against the “evildoers” among us.There were one or two leaders who did not participate and they were not able to overcome the desire of the majority to see the good in others and to admit that neither side is 100% right. Then there was the unity expressed during the summer because of the kidnapping and the war.This broght out the real feelings of achdus of everyone and,for a moment, politics was put aside. The bottom line is that the leaders in each community are the ones who must promote understanding and unity.
Not every event has to be endorced by the entire rabbinate, if ,for example, some shuls have a joint Yom HaAtzmaut celebration and other shuls have a joint gathering to enforce their undestanding of modesty or whatever, that is fine. The problem only arises if one group demands that everyone agree with them or be expelled. I think that those forces exist in every community and only if the leaders are wise and strong enouch can we prevent a split. One more thing, Baltimore is a kehilla, some other cities do not have that concept and unity is not stressed as much as it is here. I hope we can continue on this path. It gets harder when outside forces try to impose their views, but ,so far, we have been blessed with truly good leadership.
I like your (RA’s) suggestion # 3 above. All the various groups can use sustained exposure to the other. But, experience shows, one particular group is usually more guilty of this failure than others, and the excuse is usually couched in halachic terms. (e.g., its אסור to go in there, their food is not kosher enough, etc.) Thus, one side self-justifies themselves, “We are all in favor of achdus, but it is halacha that prevents it.” Therefore, it seems to me, the best way to get reciprocal achdus going is for everyone to take a step back, and re-examine certain chumrahs (even when they are stylized as actual halacha) and rethink whether their costs outweigh their benefits.
I listed to myself ten things that the other camp does better than my own.
Great idea-Depending on “where you are holding” try spending learning either in the Mir or the RIETS beis medrash and/or taking in a chaburah or shiur. R Adlerstein mentiobned jobkatif-try learning the sefarim of R Asher Weiss and R Yosef Tzvi Rimon on any subject.
What if people could be assigned “chavrutot” from outside their clique to daven on each other’s behalf. each individual would tell the other something that they would like them to daven for. And each day they would daven for each other.
I was told that Rabbi Jonathan Shippel incorporated something like this into his shul’s Rosh Hashana experience. I tried it last year as part of our Shul’s Yom Kippur experience. It was very beneficial.
Davening for the well being of our hostages and our soldiers was so much a part of the sense of Achdus during this past few months. This davening for the “yeshuah” of an individual outside of our own clique could do much the same.
When possible, we should have some day-to-day communication on Torah topics with Jewish friends and neighbors who aren’t part of our own circles.
Try learning any of R Wolbe ZL’s sefarim and especially Emes LYaakov by R Yaakov Kaminetsky ZL on Chumash or Pirkei Avos-both are exellent and often reflect thinking well beyond the envelope of a Chareid RY.
Start with questioning your presumption (if you have one) that “the other” must just not be listening because “you” are so obviously right (hint – there are some perfecrly intelligent, reasonable people who have heard your side of the story and still disagree).
The more challenging question to answer is if there is a negotiated “achdut solution” to the issues that separate you that will leave both of you feeling you are in a better place than before. Unfortunately this is much easier in the US where galus allows us the luxury (or perhaps the greatest threat of galus, not realizing that not having to face critical issues is a punishment, not a reward) of burying life and death differences in a foreign culture that allows us to do so without immediate cost.
There have been a few “nominating” campaigns going around Facebook lately, one of which was about stating five positive things about life for five days in a row. Perhaps a similar campaign can be taken on individually of trying to come up with a list of traits one can respect in the “other side” for a few days in a row.
Here’s an idea: publish posters, ads etc. to promote achdus ideas – for example:
Chanoch l’naar al pi darko means a mechanech should never reject a student because his sibling goes to a school of a different type.
One religious community means we love all Jews, no matter what kind of kipa you wear….
Those of us who are not leaders can follow rabbonim who promote unity and distance ourselves from those who promote more intense divisions.
A Summer to Remember
The last three months have etched a deep wound in all lovers of Israel. Anguish, pain and sorrow began with the kidnapping of the young yeshiva students and has ended with a tenuous cease fire ready to erupt at any moment.
Journalists, news reporters, and world leaders banded together to blame Israel and the Jewish people for every evil committed. To find any unbiased and honest report about the Gaza war was harder than uncovering a needle in a haystack. Sympathy for the evil terrorist enemy, Hamas, was the norm while thrashing Israel and its moral compass become popular game. .
Our brethren in Israel spent days & nights speedily running to secure shelters as the rockers and mortars fell. Funerals and wounded, injured soldiers and residents were daily events – sadness reigned. Shiva visits, bikur cholim, intense Torah learning, food deliveries,Tefillah rallies, Chesed acts from every sector of the country brought a once in a lifetime bond of Ahavah and Achdus. PLUS the hand of Hashem was evident everywhere with outright miracles, Iron Dome interceptions and destructions of terror bases. A summer to remember!!
We want to keep the spirit of achdus flowing. A special gathering for Women, lovers of Eretz Yisroel will take place on Sunday, Sept. 14, 8:30 at Cong. Bnei Israel on Bedford Avenue. Rabbi Sandler will speak on “What Eretz Yisroel means to us?”, Rebbetzin Esther Reisman will relate her summer experience in Eretz Yisroel and focus on “Nosei B’ol Chavercha”. Practical ideas to connect and help our brethren in Israel will be offered and shared. Plan to attend an inspiring and informative evening.
Sincerely, Mrs. Caren May
AT THIS GATHERING a booklet highlighting “practical ideas to connect and help our brethren in Israel” will be distributed.
It is a four-prong presentation and a hands-on booklet will be distributed.
1. Where to get ‘accurate & honest’ news about current events in Israel, including written, audio and online sources
2. PRO-ACTIVE behaviors of rallies, pro-Israel, anti- terrorists. eg. The NY METROPOLITAN Opera is showing their latest opera “Death of Klinghoffer” – which portrays the Terrorists who killed an elderly Jewish man as humanistic, tolerant, caring individuals. How to fight BDS? How to construct letters to biased magazines & organizations? How to thank stores for stocking and lining their shelves with ISRAELI PRODUCTS?
3. Projects for individuals, families and schools to participate in. Teen Pen-pal letter writing to kids in Sderot, drawings & pictures to hang up in the shelters & bunkers in the Southern Communities, Adopt a Shmittah Farmer and get to know his family, Rosh Hashanah gifts to wounded soldiers ($12) including an email letter, Cards to the Frankel, Shaar and Yafath families plus sympathy cards to families of killed soldiers. Hakaras Hatov to Colonel Winter and his brigade, gratitude letters to Migdal Ohr and Rabbi Grossman for hosting, caring and providing soldiers with needed supplies,,,, etc. etc.
4. There are many families planning upcoming visit to Israel for the chagim, Chanukah, winter break or visiting students and family there. These families are BEGGING for programs to connect with AMCHA YISROEL. They are bored of the eating out, mall shopping and walking through Mamilla promenade. We have a list of exceptional “off the beaten road” tours and experiences…. just to mention a few: Shopping & visiting in Sderot, donating blood, package packing at Yad Eliezer, meeting and spending time with Terror victims, bikur cholim at the hospitals, Visiting Shmittah farms, doing chesed at orphanages, bringing snacks to Checkpoints, Kever Rochel and Maaras Hamachpalah.
Come and join us for this special inspiring and informative meeting.
Those interested in receiving this booklet, please email [email protected]
Helping another community can be a way of creating achdus, as per Derech Eretz Zutta, 2nd perek:
אם חפץ אתה להידבק באהבת חברך
הוי נושא ונותן בטובתו
Ditto on the “street” being the address for many solutions, especially this one. I think that the average individual is craving for a unity in which we literally feel like family members. (At that point differences of opinion etc make little difference and are external.)
Personally I cannot think of anything more uplifting. (Many remember the refreshing experience of community when members of all “stripes” within the Orthodox community came together to Daven and show support for my uncle Sholom Rubashkin and his family. This was mainly thanks to Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz, the publisher of the Yated Ne’eman who adopted my uncle’s cause, treating the seemingly insurmountable differences of their chosen paths as being irrelevant.)
In addition to the previously mentioned ideas relating to the individual- How about a monthly communal Tefillah for the merit of the community’s sick/those in need of Shidduchim/Parnasssah/Eretz Yisrael etc? (Half hour of Tehillim/rotating Rav would give the Dvar Torah at a rotating location.)
The next generation would be tangibly brought up that the congregants of the “Shul down the block” Daven, study Torah, gives Tzedaka and cares about Hakadosh Baruch Hu just as we do…
Thank you for bringing this up for discussion.
Actively encourage young couples to leave the larger cities and start making their homes elsewhere. This could work in both Israel and the United States. In smaller communities all the Jews (or all the frum Jews, depending on the circumstances) know they have to work together and respect each other to keep the community viable. Young people (and their children) learn at an early stage to get along with different types of people. They also learn to take responsibility for communal issues and feel that what they do makes more of a difference.
Kiruv doesn’t necessarily have to be the express goal, although it might evolve naturally from relationships that develop. Finding a job is in Hashem’s hands wherever you live, and technology is making remote employment more viable.
As an aside, the cost of housing in major Orthodox centers on both sides of the ocean makes this a very attractive proposition; the financial pressure on parents and the young people in this realm would be greatly reduced.
I suggest opening a Facebook and Twitter account, friended and following a diverse group of people from across the spectrum, and joining in the discussion.
1) Go the ‘other’ type of shul in your neighborhood for shabbat. Be friendly with a shabbat shalom or Shalom Aleicham!
2) Have twos shuls of different types have a joint shabbaton, or do a chesed project together.
3) Have the Rabbi of the MO shul give a speech at the Agudah shul and visa versa. Nothing controversial.
4) Have a community wide open house of Orthodox shuls. Shul hop! Learn torah and have a snack at each one!
5) Invite people over from the other community.
How about developing a “swapping” program where a Rosh HaYeshiva or Maggid Shiur at a Chareidi Yeshiva would give a shiur in a DL or Centrist/MOdox Yeshiva and vice versa. It would not be preachy, political, Mussar or paternalistic. Straight classic lomdus or Machshava. The same could be done with Rabbonim swapping shuls for a Shabbos or a scheduled shiur on a week night. You could creatively fill-in-the-blanks as to the two parties in this swap.
This would obviously require openness on both sides. And it would be more effective and make more of a statement if this could be done in an aggregate way (e.g., 15 of one type and 15 of the other).
Let’s hope that this past summer makes it such so that the above proposal is no longer science fiction. Several years ago, there was a great Purim spoof done along similar lines (involving Teaneck, YU, and Lakewood) that was almost believable. But at this point, it remains in the realm of fantasy.
I recommend the Kli Yakar on Dvarim 1:1 and 26:19. It not only resonates, it is highly relevant.
Additionally, I think that we must be frank and concern ourselves with the “Sur Mera” as well as the “Aseh Tov”: it is the small gestures we make and phrases we use that form ours and our childrens gut attitudes.
• Treating people with kavod. For example, greeting different kinds of Jews with a hearty, genuine hello
• Looking for opportunities to point out the admirable qualities of others
• Doing a small tova for someone else, and upon asking yourself “why?” internally responding “because he is a Jew”
• Abandoning the derisive tone we are wont to use towards one group or another, one yeshiva or the next.
• Upon feeling a wave of religious fervor for whichever cause has a dear place in your heart, think of another person who champions a different cause and reflect on their contributions to the Klal.
• Upon being insulted or hurt by someone belonging to a different group or strand of ideology than yourself, remind yourself to respond proportionately. People often respond to emotional pain or chastising of the ego with sweeping generalizations. Recognize that the person standing opposite you made a mistake because he is human and then let the moment pass.
My impression is that there are far more religious divisions among Ashkenazic Jews than Sephardic Jews. Ashkenazism seem to go to the extremes, either going all the way leftward into the world of communism, socialism, and atheism, or all the way to the Right to Chareidi Judaism. In sharp contrast, Sephardic Judaism seems to be much more moderate in its tone, such that Sephardic Jews are either religious in a moderate, sane, livable way, or even when not formally religious, are not too far from it. So maybe the answer to Jewish unity, is to learn from the Sephardim, on how to do it right.
Perhaps groups of yeshiva students could switch yeshivos for a few days and hear shiurim from a different group’s rebbeim and learn bechevrusa with the talmidim. Charedi talmidim could spend a few days in a DL yeshiva, and vice versa, or Litvish bachurim in a Sephardi yeshiva, whose talmidim could go to a chassidic yeshiva.
It seems to me that this could be a big step in demonstrating that serious Torah study and yiras shamayim is found among all the different groups.
Some great ideas suggested above, most suggesting shul rabbis or yeshiva Maggie shiur to exchange or be invited WILL NOT HAPPEN.
So let’s work with individuals. I have found three winning actions that breed achdus easily and last for years. 1. Get involved in bikur cholim, driving family or patients, preparing food & acts of chesed for the family. 2. Attend minyanim at an avel’s house – especially those who have difficulties getting a minyan together. Particularly neighbors who daven in “different” shuls that are out of your ‘comfort zone’. 3. Attend simchas (Bris, Shlomo Zacher, BM, aufruff, Bas mitzvah, etc) of neighbors that u are not friendly with just to give a warm hug/mazal tov, it is so appreciated.
Most of the suggestions are what others (and it seems to be directed primarily at chareidim) should do to promote achdus.
Not what you are going to do.
I will not get into a whole back and forth and detailed analysis, because that will definitely not help the cause. But introspection is more important that trying to identify everyone else’s faults. VDAL.
I think I will tweet about this. That is a fantastic idea. VDAL (Note how I am specifying actions for my self)
In the secular world, when you want to argue a point, it is advisable to be able to argue the opposing view better than anyone. I suspect that might work here as well.
Try to honestly identify a positive strength in another group. Try to communicate your admiration for that strength to your children and/or students. For example: The mesiras nefesh of chabad to live in far flung places away from families and friends, the ability of MO to harness secular wisdom in the service of torah, the exceptional chesed organizations of the chasidim, the halachik and talmudic briliance of the chareidim,the commitment of the DL to the land and safety of am Yisrael. These are obvious generalizations but they can help to lead to an appreciation of others even when you still have real hashkafic diffrences with them.
Didn’t see suggestions for Charedem versus MO, secular or traditional Jews. Particularly our Women’s, lovers of Israel gathering will herald a vast group of diverse women from all sectors of religious observances . So Chochom.. What are u talking about????
Participate, volunteer and support institutions which in addition to their (already wonderful) primary purposes, also promote communal unity and love as a by-product. To be involved with these institutions is to realize that there are many people from disparate Orthodox groups who are working together and developing bonds, and to have the opportunity to develop those bonds for oneself. While the main goal of these institutions is to promote their stated objectives, each also promotes achdus. For example, as a by-product of the service it was created to provide, Hatzolah also promotes communal unity since volunteers are from diverse hashkafos and kehilos, and of course, service diverse people. Similarly, there are places such as Camp HASC which serve people with special needs (a super important service, and lo and behold if you go to their website you find that the list of Rabbonim that has visited and spoken with the staff and campers is quite diverse – R’M Solomon, R M’ Weinberger, R’ H. Schachter, R Y’ Perlow, R M. Willig, to name a few- one counselor from a MO background who I know personally developed a close relationship with a Chassidishe camper from Monroe and her family, and has been invited together with her co-counselor for a Shabbos -she intends to go, and needless to say both sides of the equation have benefitted tremendously. Also Bikur cholim mosdos (Satmar being the leader there) which famously serve everyone. Not surprising, maybe, that is these types of organizations which are there to promote life, health, safety, quality of life, are the ones where we most easily work together -but every communal institution from the Eruv to the Vaad Hakashrus should service and be serviced by as many diverse groups as possible. In the 5Towns and FR, for example, a huge effort was made some years ago to ensure one Vaad Hakashrus for the entire community – I was privileged to hear a lecture by one of the people who was very involved in that integration who explained just how much effort went into that, against communal objections and concerns from both right and left -but unity prevailed in that case.
We should all recognize that many of the divisions among us are deep, important, and sincere. Once we recognize that, we can work on handling differences of opinion respectfully, and with the underlying assumption that the motives of someone on the other side of some idealogical or political divide are as sincere as our own.
Dr. Marvin Schick wrote something I’ve quoted before which is also relevant here:
“During the 1960s, as well, I was active in Agudath Israel, as I had been since my teens, and also in the Orthodox Union, representing it on public issues. This dual commitment was and remains unique and reflected my determination to work for the entire community. When, however, Rabbi Samson R. Weiss, the Orthodox Union’s immensely gifted executive vice president, asked me to become an officer, I demurred, saying that while I would work voluntarily for the organization, an officer must take responsibility for the group’s policies and I could not take responsibility for Synagogue Council membership.” (Jewish Press, A Question Of Identity, October 13th, 2010)
I’d suggest placing greater emphasis and adding rigor to the hashkafa curriculums of yeshivos/educational institutions. There is a problem (and this fosters disunity among those with different hashkafos) when people are aware of different shitos to sugyos in learning while they are aware of only one hashkafic approach to many issues and are exposed to sophisticated, textual study of sugyos in learning while hashkafa is taught non-textually and without rigor and depth.