commUNITY: Federation Shabbaton

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 11:25am

935 The first United Jewish Federation of Tidewater - Synagogue Shabbaton helped build bridges among our congregations and across religious streams here in Tidewater.

Ohef Sholom’s Shabbat Shira ushered in the Sabbath with beautiful melodies which complemented our Jewish Agency for Israel guest speaker Shoel Silver’s eloquent remarks about the need for harmony among the Jewish people here in North America and in Israel.  At Beth Chaverim the vision of children clasping hands on the beema to model the unity of the Jewish people was embellished by Shoel’s description of the Committee on Unity of the Jewish People which he chairs with Natan Sharansky.   Saturday night the poignant discussion at the home of B’nai Israel congregants Renee and Paul Mansheim centered on healing rifts within Klal Yisrael along with rifts in our own community.   Sunday morning the lively Q&A by members of Temple Israel, Temple Emanuel, Beth El and KBH covered a range of topics from conversion to ordination of rabbis to the practice of the three main religious streams of Judaism in Israel – Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.  Shoel then offered a briefing to members of the UJFT Board and described the significance of the Committee on the Unity of the Jewish People in that it is the sole governmental body in Israel where members of each stream of Judaism sit together to discuss policy affecting Jewish peoplehood in an environment of tolerance and respect.

Moving toward the future it is clear that all of us, representing the diverse and vital Jewish agencies and congregations here in Tidewater, are indeed moving in the same direction:  forward – Kadima!  With a sense of vitality  and renewal, we look forward to continuing these conversations and activities which serve to inspire, connect and engage, as does the Jewish Agency for Israel.   We indeed  represent  Kehila Kadosha, one sacred community.

This excerpt from Aish Hatorah's interpretation of Exodus chapters 15-17 which we read in synagogue during the Federation Shabbaton is quite fitting:

"The Jews are having a hard time. There's no water -- and they complain. Then there's no meat -- and they complain. They're so upset that Moses is afraid they'll kill him! Then again no water. The Jews are fighting and bickering terribly.

Then Amalek came and battled Israel. An outside threat shook us. What happened next? The Jews encamped in unity at Sinai.

When Jews are threatened as a people, we get the message loud and clear. We know we are one. In the Six Day War, all Jews stood together. In the struggle for Soviet Jewry, all Jews rallied together. When we're attacked, we become one.

The prophet compares the Jewish people to a "flock of sheep." As the Midrash explains, when one is attacked, they all react.


There is one other instance where the Torah refers to a nation in the singular. Seven weeks earlier, as the Jews approached the Red Sea, they looked back and saw Mitzrayim no'saya acha'ray'hem -- "the Egyptians journeying (singular) after them" (Exodus 14:10). The Egyptians were united in their goal of destroying the Jewish people.

In this instance, unity was negative and destructive. At Sinai, unity led to world civilization. What's the difference?

In referring to the Egyptian unity, Rashi makes a slight change in the order. He says the Egyptians pursued "with a singular desire, and with a single goal." With the Jews, the goal came first. With the Egyptians, the primary emphasis was on personal desire.

If ego, partisanism, and private agendas are what define a people, then they'll destroy themselves and the world. Whereas if a meaningful common goal of God and Torah is what unites, that will bring utopia.

The lesson is clear for us today.

To view the full remarks from Shoel Silver, please click here.

Carolyn Amacher, Community Development Specialist

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