How many Jews will mark Yom Kippur 5775 in Afghanistan? 100? 50? Ten to scrape together a minyan? No. In fact, it falls well short of that; to the point that describing the community’s members as “they” would be incorrect.
Zevulun Simantov is the last Jew you will find living in Afghanistan’s capitol Kabul. Wars, Islamic extremism and even the internal quarrel between him and the second last Jew of Afghanistan (of course), Ishak Levin, who passed away in 2005, have not made him budge. Simantov is determined to stick it out- relentless in his effort to delay the inevitable demise of the 1500 year long Afghani Jewish legacy.
In stark contrast, here I am, sitting thousands of miles away, typing away. I am part of a community that has no problem getting a minyan of any denomination. There is no shortage of kosher food, and we have the protection and safety to celebrate our religion and culture. Perhaps most importantly, I am privileged to be here representing a country that proudly flies the only flag with a Magen David; the same Magen David that appears in the shul in Kabul.
Tomorrow we will disconnect from our mundane realities to face our Maker. We will take the time to reflect on the year that has past and to look forward to the the year that lies ahead. The vast majority of us will do so with others to the left and the right of us- in our kehillot– our communities.
For thousands of years it has been the ideal of community that has ensured and sustained Jewish life, manifesting itself in our everyday routines through schools, community centers, synagogues, summer camps, exchange and partnership programs, youth movements, and so much more.
And community is where we go in times of need. Just in this last year we saw communities rally together in during the #BringBackOurBoys campaign for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. We saw massive global support for Israel’s Defense Forces during 50 days of battle. And we saw, and still see, the ongoing efforts for Ukraine’s Jewish community as they face an ever threatened future.
What then we can learn on Yom Kippur from Kabul’s last Jew? If anything, Simantov teaches us the importance of what he is lacking. He will be reciting the same prayers as us half a world away, alone.
And us? We should look to our left and our right to recognize what many times seems obvious- that we have the privilege, as well as the responsibility, of being part of a community. Without it, where would we be?
G’mar Hatima Tova