A Leader's Update: All in the Family

The following blog first appeared Friday, May 18, as an email update from Keith Krivitzky, CEO, the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey.


Dear friends and colleagues,

As you may know, I have a thing for metaphors. I try and find apt ones. And I mess them up just as often. (Ask me later about an apple cart.).

When it comes to the Jewish people, and why there is value in being Jewish, I use the idea of family. I think this metaphor using relationships works, and I've tried to apply that to other issues and circumstances facing the Jews.

For instance, the different groups in Israeli society, and in our American Jewish community, are like fractious siblings...with all the bickering that comes with that.

And Jews in the Diaspora and Jews in Israel are cousins, with one side living in the ancestral homestead; unfortunately each side is showing some attitude towards the other.

I even understand the conflict with the Palestinians in this context...like the Hatfields and the McCoys. There was some sort of family split in the past, probably with jilted lovers somewhere, and no rapprochement since. While those from each side feel the reality of the issues that divide them, many on the outside wonder why they can't sort things out.

Anti-semites? The neighbors down the block who are jealous, spiteful, reject what they don't understand, ingrates, or are just miserable people.

But what I can't seem to understand is the kid who keeps posting on my brother's Facebook page.

You see...my brother offers posts on Facebook that are thoughtful, educational, and designed to provoke intelligent conversation. He had several recently about the violence on the Gaza border. And this kid kept posting and responding. (I say kid even though he's in his 20's, a former Hillel student of my brother's.) No matter what was said, Israel was at fault. There was no acceptable justification for any of the Jewish state's actions.

This represents a completely different world view than I see, and I don’t think it is even rational. So, the question is...given my penchant for this relationship metaphor - how does this scenario fit? The best description for what I see is how someone might respond to being betrayed, resulting in an emotional, almost fanatical response. The kind you might see after a really nasty breakup, where there is no possibility of finding common ground.

Winston Churchill once said: "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

A fanatic is passionate about a cause and feels a deep, personal connection to it. However, in this situation, I don't understand where the betrayal part comes in. Huh? Did Israel turn on him? Was he so invested and involved in a relationship with the Jewish state, or his Jewishness, to begin with?

I think the question of why some who come from within the family are so intense and hostile is important. It's a bit of a conundrum…and we are seeing this more and more. The question is what do we do with that? This is something we need to figure out.

One further thought: I have been thinking of this in the lead up to Shavuot and the giving of the Torah. This shared experience is what enabled us to survive as a people, with a common frame of reference and collective goals. To continue to survive and thrive we need to have that today, even if it requires some sort of reset.

But it's important to note some Jews didn't make it out of Egypt to Sinai. They wanted to stay or didn't buy into this collective ethos. Just as with families, there are some who break away or are estranged, and where the rest of the family needs to mourn and move on. Maybe this family metaphor works here too. We just need to figure out where it is worth nurturing and repairing a difficult relationship with some family members. (It doesn't have to be, but kids may often fall into this category.) And where we need to recognize irreconcilable differences and move on.

As always, more to think about and do. Your thoughts welcome.

With that, lots of quality reads for the holiday weekend:

Everything else you wanted to know about what’s going on in Gaza:

And don’t forget to join us next Wednesday night to hear from Yossi Klein Halevi especially relevant right now. www.jewishheartnj.org/halevi  

Best for a Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Shavuot!



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