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Andy Blumenthal
Leadership With Heart

Lessons in Peace, Inclusion, and Humanity

In this brief video, there are three stories from my recent Caribbean vacation, which include a conversation with a waiter about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, feeling unwelcome in a synagogue, and connecting with a stranger from India.

I am on vacation in the Caribbean and having a wonderful time. I would like to share three things that happened to me recently and some lessons I learned from them.

The first thing is called “not that relevant.” I was eating out at an eatery, and the waiter came over to me. He saw that I was Jewish because I was wearing my kippah. He asked me where I was from. I told him that I was from the United States. He then said that he knew both Israelis and Palestinians. He said that if only there could be peace between them, there would be no reason for any conflict. He said that the conflict is old, it comes from the elders, and it is history. He said that we need to get past that and that it is “not that relevant anymore.”

I cannot say that the issue of who has a place to live and who has peace and tranquility living in the Holy Land is not relevant. However, I can say that it is probably time for us to come up with a peaceful solution so that we can all live together in peace, as brothers, going forward into the future.

The second story I want to tell is about not being that welcome. We went to a synagogue in the Caribbean while on vacation. As usual, we thought that, as fellow Jews, we would be welcomed into the synagogue. We came to daven and sing, and we really felt the holiday together. After the services, they had a kiddush, which is a meal for the people. However, when we looked in on the Kiddush after the services, we saw that almost all of the tables had signs that said “synagogue members only.” My wife and I looked at each other. We had never seen anything like that before. Why is it important whether or not someone is a member? It was just a regular kiddush. As fellow Jews, it should not matter whether or not someone is a member if they are visiting for the holidays, especially if you believe in outreach to fellow Jewish people.

My wife also said to them that we would be happy to pay after the Yom Tov (holiday) if that was necessary. However, we did find afterwards that there were tables in the back with a couple of “visitor” signs on them. However, the visitors were segregated from the synagogue members. So we felt not that welcome. I think that is not the way to do things. Obviously, I think we can do better in terms of outreach for each other, making each other feel welcome in our communities, and being more giving to each other.

The last story I want to tell is that we are not that different. I was visiting a tourist attraction that was very scenic. I was going to take a selfie of myself and my wife, but a lady came up to us and said, “Oh, would you like me to take a picture of you?” I thought that was really great. I said, “Sure, please take a picture of us.” She asked, “Which way do you want it?” And I responded that we wanted one this way and one that way. She was really courteous and helpful to us.

Then she asked me where I was from. I told her that I was from the United States. She said that she and her husband were from India and that they were touring and visiting. They were having a great time. I said, “Wow, that’s great that you’re from India. My wife and I just finished watching Indian Matchmaker. We really loved it.” She said, “Well, that’s funny because my husband and I just finished watching Jewish Matchmaker. We really love that.”

We immediately looked at each other, all four of us with big smiles on our faces. We realized that we are all not that different. We may be from other sides of the world and different cultures. We may live somewhat different lives. However, at the end of the day, we are human beings. We are G-d’s children, and we are all not that different.

So with that, I want to leave you with those three messages for today and wish everybody well for the rest of 2023. Thank you so much.

About the Author
Andy Blumenthal is a dynamic, award-winning leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own.
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