For those of us who were teenagers in the 80s The Breakfast Club was an iconic movie. For everyone else, I offer a brief synopsis.
[“The Breakfast Club” came out in the winter of 1985. It was directed by John Hughes, who had a knack for directing movies which touched on teen angst. It told the story of five teenagers from different backgrounds who got stuck in detention together one Saturday morning. Despite being very different (there was a jock, a nerd, a troubled guy from the wrong side of the tracks, a rich, spoiled girl and a girl who seemed to revel in being strange). By the end of the movie, they learned that despite the very real differences that existed between them, they shared a lot in common. Throw in the fact that the actors were all attractive and cool, some pathos and humor, as well as a great soundtrack, and you begin to understand why this movie was so integral to our teenage years].
As much as I loved the movie, and can still, all these years later, quote much of it by heart, I viewed it somewhat skeptically. Based on my experiences, I couldn’t imagine those five types of kids hitting it off in real life, and the ending seemed a bit forced.
I recently thought of the movie after eight of us got together for what I inelegantly called “The Asifa (gathering) of Bloggers, Facebookers and Hockers”. Although we had not been sent to detention, and the fact that due to technical reasons all eight attendees were male (women were invited), it was a pretty diverse crowd, from across the gamut of Orthodoxy. We came wearing different head-coverings, from knit and black velvet kippot, to Borsalinos and a streimel. We talked, argued, kibbitzed, and analyzed some of the many issues faced by our community and communities. Amongst the topics were Jewish education, how Open-Orthodoxy is viewed, and biblical criticism. We weren’t aiming to solve the problems, and knew that we could not. Still, it was our hope that we were beginning something positive.
Although not nearly to the degree as some of our coreligionists who live in Israel, we tend to live in communities which act as echo chambers. We daven with people who think and act like we do, send our children to schools where their family’s beliefs are not challenged, and read periodicals with articles which generally reinforce our beliefs and ideas. Under these circumstances, is it any wonder that Orthodoxy is so fractured and marked by fighting and demonizing of the other?
There is something to sitting down to talk with a person from a different world, and hearing each other out. I don’t mean simply waiting patiently until you can fire back, but real listening. Seeing those who see things differently as real people, and not two-dimensional cliches, and hearing what they have to say.. Whether through organizations like Limmud, our shuls or by starting informal gatherings like our little asifa, it is time for us to talk as Jews. Included in this, is dialogue with those from other denominations. I do not pretend that your conversations will always be as pleasant and positive as ours was, or that it will lead to some blissful peace, but it is the first step in healing our badly fractured community. Although I can’t promise you a good sound track, I can promise you some humor and pathos. Who knows? Maybe we will even end up with a realistic ending.