A Call for Unity, Not Uniformity

Prior to October 7, many of us thought that the division of Jews in Israel hit a low point. For a period, post October 7, it seemed that we were once again unified. However, that period was short lived and in the past two to three months the division amongst Jews in Israel struck a new low that many of us have never witnessed in our lifetimes. Israeli media has reported that certain left-wing protests in Israel engage in the same rhetoric and disruptive behavior present in many of the Pro-Hamas, and more recently Pro-Hezbollah protests we have witnessed in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries. The Shin Bet has repeatedly claimed these protestors are going “beyond what is acceptable”.

After more than 6 months of fighting in Gaza, differences between various political and religious ideologies in Israel and within Judaism have reached unprecedented tensions. It was, therefore, very comforting to hear a respected Jewish Orthodox Rabbinical leader, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, address the Hostages and Missing Families Forum in a relatable manner when he called for unity between Israelis of all political and religious stripes. Rabbi David Lau addressed the crowd with empathy and compassion, when he stated (translated from Hebrew): “There is no right, no left, there is no religious, traditional, or secular. We all want to see them home,” he said. “We are all united in worry, love and care for each and every one who is not home, for those who were kidnapped”. On Thursday, April 18, 2024, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum brought together a diverse crowd of secular and religious Israelis to Hostages’ Square to hear from hostages’ family members, rabbis, parents of fallen soldiers and residents of the Gaza Envelope communities, with the goal of “uniting all sectors of Israeli society. Most speakers that evening ascended to the stage in groups of two or three. For example, highlighting the diversity in the crowd, Moran Zer Katzenstein, chair of the Women Wage Peace movement, and religious leader Rabbanit Yemima Mizrahi spoke to the crowd together on the podium. These two women, from completely different backgrounds and ideologies stood together on stage representing the religious diversity of the crowd.

The current political environment in Israel is fraught with backstabbing, mistrust and dangerous rhetoric coming from Knesset leaders. This puts not only Israeli Jews at risk, but Jews living in the diaspora at risk as well. Our enemies are keen to look for disunity in Israel and know when it exists, we are weakened as a nation. Since the disunity in Israel is magnified and becomes a microcosm of what takes place on a global scale. There is no doubt about the correlation between global antisemitic incidents over the past 6 months and the hate speech stemming from Knesset members, which have been publicized for all to read.

In February, I had the privilege of listening to speaker Jonathan Conricus at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, NJ as he provided insight into the Gaza war. Mr. Conricus is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and was the international spokesperson for the IDF. When Mr. Conricus was introduced by Rabbi Eliot Schrier, he was given the compliment that Israel finally has individuals with speaking abilities like Abba Eban. Abba Eban was renowned for his exceptional oratorical skills and was praised by Henry Kissinger as someone whose “sentences poured forth in mellifluous constructions complicated enough to test the listener’s intelligence and simultaneously leave him transfixed by the speaker’s virtuosity”. After Rabbi Schrier finished his introduction, Mr. Conricus humbly responded that it is really Rabbis who are “true masters of their words and speech” and he was grateful to be in the presence of someone like Rabbi Schrier whose command of language and oratorical skills is beyond extraordinary. We are at a critical time in history where we need articulate, sensitive, and unifying leaders. Rabbis are in the unique opportunity to fill that role and promote much needed unity, particularly in Israel.

We are such a blessed people to have incredible and talented rabbinical leaders who have provided endless words of comfort to their congregants for the past 6 months. It is now crystal clear that the global Jewish Community needs to not only hear more messages about the importance of unity, but to see ALL Israeli Rabbi’s role modeling this behavior.

Until ALL Israeli Rabbis become entrenched in global Jewish needs, Israeli leaders will continue backstabbing each other. Until ALL Israeli Rabbis unite, Pro-Hamas and Pro-Hezbollah protestors will continue blocking bridges, highways, and airports. Until ALL Israeli Rabbis gain a healthier perspective on what needs to unfold to protect Judaism, Jewish communities will continue to drift apart.

Perhaps it is time to stop obsessing about antisemitism and start obsessing about how our leaders interact with each other. It is time to show that unity is not uniformity and as a nation we have strength in our diversity. Time is running out.

About the Author
Throughout my professional career, I have held several senior accounting and finance related roles at multiple, innovative publicly traded and privately held technology companies. I have a strong background in leadership, compliance and M&A, along with a strategic mindset, which has enabled me to lead teams through leveraged buy-outs, transactions and other transformation initiatives. I have an MS/MBA in Professional Accounting from Northeastern University and a BS from New Jersey Institute of Technology in Engineering Science. I have been a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), since 2004.
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