E Pluribus Unum

Each day, the world seems to get smaller and smaller. Attacks that once seemed far removed hit close to home; extremism and hatreds play out on a world stage.

We’ve all checked boxes on forms to let someone know who we are, perhaps to affirm to ourselves what we are…or what we are not. But at times like these it is important to realize that these distinctions don’t really matter, which or how many boxes you’ve ticked off. Today, we are all Gay. But we are also all Jewish, Black, Latino, Female, White. We are all runners in the Boston Marathon, office workers, soldiers, civilians, Americans.

To be an American means to transcend our differences. Not to wipe them away or pretend they don’t exist, but to stroll along the boundaries, brushing against others who are both similar and different, and sometimes maybe crossing the line for a visit. You can always go back and take comfort among your own, but we shouldn’t forget the other exists.

Lines become blurred enough when you bleed.

When someone strikes at one of us, they strike at all of us. That’s the strength of unity. That’s also the unifying power of diversity. And that’s what the United States is about.

E Pluribus Unum.

Out of many, one.

Under God.

But who are we to presume to know the mind of God?

That’s what those who fear difference pretend to do.

We were created in His image, by His hand — and yet there are those who seek to contradict Him in His name. (And among those who seek to contradict the will of God, He is always a he.)

Fundamentalism, while skipping over one big fundamental. Chutzpah.

What the Creator makes…shouldn’t be up to us to destroy on our own. We all come to the same end; it shouldn’t be for one or another of us to hurry that end along. It doesn’t make their journey any longer or sweeter.

So, what can we do to stand together amidst our differences? And stand up to those who would make a crime of difference?

Keep supporting diversity and the dignity of every person regardless of label. Lend your voice to the voices of others being persecuted or in anguish, not to drown them out but to be sure they are heard. Let’s not forget that we are all in the image of God. That is the ultimate proof-text for getting along.

Don’t lose sight of the justice of your convictions, but recognize the injustice of those who seek to impose their values onto others. A little empathy goes a long way.

Recognize that being part of a unique family, group or tribe can be a wonderful thing — as long as we recognize that others have just as much right to feel the same way about their family, group or tribe.

Stand tall and proud for what we believe, with just enough room for a little doubt and humility. Iron on its own can become brittle. Iron when tempered with other elements becomes steel. Together, proud because of all our differences and not despite them, we can be strong and resilient like steel.

About the Author
Keith Krivitzky is the CEO of The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey. Prior to this he was the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, NJ and VP of Philanthropy at the Federation in Seattle, and Renaissance Man at the Hillel International Center in Washington, DC. He is an alum of Princeton and has an MBA from the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. His passion is exploring how to rethink and enhance Jewish life.