Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Are You My Community?

I am fairly sure we all remember this cute children’s book called “Are You My Mother?” This lovely little story explains that there is this young being, which both my friend and my son recall as being a duck, who is searching for his mother. He takes a stroll and comes across many members of the animal community, always asking “Are you my mother?” and alas, they are not. Children love this story and of course, in the happy ending, the adorable duckling finds his mommy. Great ending!

So sometimes, I feel like this duck. Let me explain. I am on the hunt always for my Jewish community. Of course, the entirety of the Jewish community is mine, I get that. But really, where is MY community? Are you my community, I am always asking. Where are the ritualistically observant (not critical) Shomrei Mitzvot (nice but okay, if not completely) spiritually connected Jewish communities committed to their moral imperative to work for the betterment of the world (definitely a deal breaker for me)? I always say, I belong here a little there a little but nowhere completely. I actually wrote about this in an earlier blog posting as a fence sitter by conviction. But to be really honest about it, sitting on fences hurts after a while and can be quite tiring. I feel like I am fighting battles on all sides at all times. And I am still searching…. Are you my community?

My son came home from shul rather upset recently. Here is what happened to the best of my knowledge. He was talking about the recent rockets that exploded in Be’er Sheva where Talie (his sister, our daughter) lives. Fortunately, no one was injured, though property was and one home-owner, who is planning a wedding for a child, remarked that she is worried that there could be a strike there again as it is now known that the rocket that was sent from Aza hit a residential site. After this, Israel retaliated as Israel must. As a result, a Palestinian woman and her child were killed. We were sad at the loss of innocent life in this situation as we always are – as Jews and as members of the human family (and being so is NOT being disloyal to Israel but rather affirming the very ethical premises on which such difficult decisions are made!). My son was expressing this sadness at the loss of life (are we not taught that all people are made BeTzelem Elokim and that we as Jews who respect all life are not to celebrate at the loss of ANY life?!) and people listening or just hearing the conversation peripherally near the Kiddush table basically shut him down, telling him he did not know what he was talking about. When he came home and expressed how unhappy he was, I explained that I simply do not talk about such things in our community (except with a chosen few) – which already tells you something – as I know most of the members of our shul community do not share my feelings about such things and I do not want to get into shouting matches as I do not feel that any purpose is served by doing so. In fact, I feel that this would be “placing a stumbling block before those who cannot see,” so to speak.

There is a great reading called The “Moshiach’s Hat” in which The Moshiach comes to earth and continually asks, as am I, “Are you my community?” He goes to one shul where people are wearing one type of Kipah and he has another and they say “You do not belong here.” He then puts on one type of Hassidic garb, goes to a Hassidic community and is told, “That is not the right coat. You do not belong here.” And on and on it goes…. Until finally he decides to leave earth and that there is no community that can answer his question, “Are you my community?”

How sad! We are all part of B’nai Yisrael and are part of a world wide community of B’nai Adam. Today, the well being of ALL of our communities is being threatened by extremists and those who want world wide domination based on their prototype of belief and how people should live. Within this context, we as Jews are admired for our Talmudic tradition, for the Rabbinic discourse that accompanies our process of figuring out how to live, and for the humility that comes with not knowing all of the answers.

And yet…. We have our community members who claim to KNOW all the answers to those questions that we can only respond to with approaches, and differentiated ones at that. This is how we have raised our children and how we act as informed, learning and practicing Jews. So, now we ask, “Are you my community?” Still waiting for our happy ending!


  1. Great post! I have felt man of these feelings in various communities of which I have been a part and its frustrating and discouraging. But from these situations, I have learned the invaluable lesson that there are always other points of connection to be made with people with whom you fervently disagree....and maybe through those connections, people who disagree become able to respectfully communicate with one another regarding the divisive topics. It's an optimistic approach....but that's how I roll :)

  2. Sunnie,

    I can relate entirely to what you wrote. I have been searching for "my community" for a long time. I do not fit into any specific label, and I am not sure I would even want to fit in. I am against labels to begin with! But yes, it is not easy to search, and search, and search, and have to wonder if you will ever find it...