A Leaders Update - A Matter of Perspective

The following blog first appeared Friday, April 27, as an email update from Keith Krivitzky, CEO, the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey.


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It’s a matter of perspective. That phrase can apply to many things, or to everything, but I am going to share 3 thoughts on this theme that follow and provide a different gloss on my post from last week.

1) We had a pretty amazing panel this past Wednesday night as a follow up to our Interfaith Clergy Journey to Israel, organized by the Diocese of Metuchen. There were more than 100 in attendance, mostly people from outside of our Jewish “family” and with divergent connections and perspectives on what happens in Israel. On our panel, we had a rabbi, a Catholic priest, an Episcopal priest, and a Muslim cleric what might be the makings of joke but wound up being a great example of what can happen when people come together for a shared experience with open, honest conversations.

During this discussion, our Muslim colleague focused on how to help the Palestinians, primarily, especially in terms of empowering their leaders to pursue peace. I received feedback after the event from some people (within our “family”) who felt that this translated to him not being “pro” Israel or educated enough about the history of the conflict…as well as some questions about whether this trip didn’t fully “work” on him. I disagree and think there is a different issue at play, which is especially important for the “pro” Israel community to be aware of and sensitive to.

Not everyone we talk to shares our perspective, and views support for Israel or the issues facing the Jewish state as their top priority. In fact, most don’t care. Some, who are not necessarily “anti”, might have other competing priorities. In this case, our colleague is concerned about those who happen to be his Muslim cousins somewhat more than our Jewish family. But, at the same time, he talked about the amazing experience he had in Israel, about the importance of two states, about how he felt safe and Israel wasn’t as conflict-ridden as it appears on TV all good stuff.

There are many people who fall in this category and they are not enemies. They have a different frame of reference, and I think we all need to be more sensitive to the fact that there are not just binary perspectives on the reality today in Israel, but multiple perspectives. It’s complicated, but that’s also not a bad thing.

2) I think this assessment is also relevant to some of what I wrote about last week playing out on college campuses like Barnard, NYU and GW, though perhaps a bit more troubling because it pertains to people who are “family” but also don’t share the same frame of reference or perspective. My thoughts here are still swirling, because I think this family framework is what keeps the Jewish people alive and there are clearly many who are “Jewish” who don’t get it or buy into that, especially younger Jews. BUT, I think a key takeaway here is to remember that we need to engage these younger, perhaps disaffected Jews without pre-supposing their perspective. (I was going to say pre-judging…but I do feel a bit judgmental.) They aren’t necessarily “anti” and they certainly aren’t “pro” they may not know what they are yet (like that child who doesn’t know how to ask), and it takes a whole different approach and language to speak to them.

3) I think there is another implication for our community, which goes with the above points. We have a tendency to be very inwardly focused and self-oriented…and I suppose that’s natural. But, for those who are not “family” and even those who technically are but are a bit estranged I wonder if that is also a bit off-putting. We need to do a better job of balancing our own particular concerns and perspectives with those of others, and especially focusing on areas where there may be overlap.

I want to go further. I think there is also a need for more empathy for others and respect for their perspectives. It can’t just be about us all the time. I think we sometimes get lost in our own meshugas (craziness/neuroses) and forget that. My contention is that others tend to react to our self-centeredness, often poorly. And that an approach that recognizes and appreciates other perspectives, and even demonstrates empathy for them, can go a long way.

OK before I get to our reads of the week, I want to extend this theme a bit more. People in Israel have a somewhat different perspective than Jews in the US do; their lives inhabit a smaller space geographically and culturally, which means that circumstances that affect individuals or small groups in Israeli society often have an outsized impact or radius of effect. That is certainly the case with the deaths of 10 teens in flash flooding the other day. Most of the country is reeling from the loss. That’s what happens when stuff happens to family and your family is connected to each other. It’s another perspective we should keep in mind.

Now, onto:



Best for a Shabbat Shalom!


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