I was talking to a family member about my blog and they said, “It sounds like you just want everyone to get along.”
I do. I really do. If I had it my way, we’d all be nicer to each other. Religious folks, non-religious folks, the folks that have gone back and forth between the two worlds half a dozen times and the folks that fall somewhere in between. I think it’s a dream that I’ll forever pursue, and one that I hope is the ultimate takeaway from my writing.
The thing is, my relative didn’t say it like it was a good thing. They said it like it was a pipe dream, like a little kid saying that they want to be a movie star or the president. And I understand that. These days, not everyone wants to get along.
For a long time, I’ve straddled two worlds. My religious friends and family, (like most orthodox families), are conservative. My secular friends and coworkers, (like most in the social service field), are liberal. I’ve listened to conversations where conservatives were called evil and Nazis and racists. I’ve listened to conversations where liberals were called dumb and snowflakes and emotional. No matter what, I always feel like I don’t agree. I’m used to keeping my moderate opinions to myself, because it seems as though not many people are capable of understanding and accepting people on both extremes. If It sounds like I’m bragging about my ability to be moderate… well, I guess I am.
Extremism divides. We all know that. It’s been dividing us politically for a long time, and I’m tired of the endless discourse about how those on the other end of the political spectrum are bad people. I’m tired of the blanket statements of “All liberals/conservatives are…” It’s not true. It’s never true.
The extremism in our Jewish community is dividing as well. And yes, I believe that we need to view ourselves as one community. Chassidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Traditional, Unaffiliated, Irreligious, and every other Jewish-identifying person included. Looking down on or judging those outside of our group is damaging and against our moral values. And here I will have to admit that I’ve been guilty of doing just this. I’ve looked at people more religious than me and judged them as close-minded and narcissistic. I haven’t always wanted to engage in dialogue with them, assuming that they would be judgmental and holier-than-thou. But I’m challenging that part of myself.
I’ve been asked what I hope to accomplish with this blog, and besides for the accurate goal of wanting everyone to get along, I’d say that I would like to open up dialogue between Jews throughout the spectrum of religiosity. That means that if you don’t agree with something that I write in a blog post, you can tell me. You can ask me to clarify my thoughts. You can challenge me. I promise to respond thoughtfully and respectfully, and hope you will do the same.
Let’s push outside our comfort zone and challenge ourselves to really understand those that have different beliefs than us. When people find out that I’m not religious anymore, my most appreciated response is when they ask me questions about my decision with open curiosity. It shows that they care enough to understand me and respect me enough to listen to my thoughts.
Let’s do this for each other.
Let’s get along.