Sally Abrams
Here's How I See It

October 7 and a renewed sense of ‘we’

The desire to help is bringing volunteers on solidarity missions to Israel. Photos of the hostages await them. (Ethan Roberts)

If Jews had forgotten that Am Yisrael is one people, no matter where we live, October 7 and its aftermath have reminded us.

We are witnessing an outpouring of Diaspora solidarity with Israel the likes of which we haven’t experienced for decades. There is an awakened sense of “we,” of shared destiny. It has the power to fortify our people with the bravery we need to navigate this terrible time and to bind us more deeply to our shared Jewish story.  How can we turn this love and concern, this surge of attachment, into a deeper connection that will outlast this moment?

For the past five months, Diaspora Jews have been consumed with the desire to help, to ease the suffering in some small way. That desire is filling airplanes with volunteers on solidarity missions to Israel. It has enabled the Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA) to raise over $700 million dollars in an emergency campaign. I’ve lost count of the number of individuals who are taking action in their own way — collecting supplies, raising funds for a specific need, and even sending pizza dinners and messages of support to families who have one parent serving in the reserves. The idea tapped into a powerful need to connect personally, as one American mom wrote to her Israeli counterpart, “I don’t know you…but I know you.”

Let’s take that need to connect personally to the next level. How can we cultivate genuine relationships with each other?

Although Israeli Jews and Diaspora Jews live thousands of miles apart under very different circumstances, we are like two sides of one coin — inseparable, but in need of a mirror to be able to see the other side clearly.

I believe that mirror is friendship.

Even now, when the crisis is far from over, I see signs that others think so too.

Last week, a group of Israeli mothers came to our community as part of the Momentum program. They were hosted by a group of local Jewish moms who plan to visit them in Israel this fall. At the end of the week, here’s what a few of the Israeli moms had to say:

My main take away was a better understanding that Jews outside of Israel have a very different life than Jews in Israel and we all stand together…”

It became clearer to me that we share the same destiny. We are responsible for each other, and we depend on each other…

“It opened my mind and my heart.”

As for the Minnesota moms, one quote summarizes them all:

“We are opening the door to this incredible friendship which will continue for generations.”

This summer, some 1,500 Israeli teens will attend Jewish summer camps in North America and across the Jewish world through an initiative called Campers2Gether,  a joint effort of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Mosaic United, and the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism.

The Israeli kids coming this summer will have been through unimaginable trauma. Camp will be a chance to just be kids for a while, along  with their American Jewish peers. Together these teens will experience the way Jewish summer camp strengthens Jewish identity, fostering a deep connection to Am Yisrael and to each other. Bringing Israeli and Diaspora kids together at summer camp is a powerful way to cultivate friendships, all the more so at this fraught time.

In two months, a group of us from my community plans to travel to Israel for the annual meeting of our Partnership Together (P2G) steering committee, a program of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and the Jewish Agency for Israel. This “people to people” partnership between the Minneapolis Jewish community and Rehovot is now in its tenth year; myriad programs have enabled people in our two communities to cultivate deep personal bonds.

I imagine that many of our Rehovot friends will wonder how it can be time for our annual meeting — it’s still October 7th. A year will have passed while time has stopped.

There will be hugs, there will be tears. We will stand together grieving all that’s happened, but we will also create new memories. These will not remove the pain; rather, they will be tiny seeds of love and connection planted alongside it. Seeds that will nurture our shared future.

How do we think about the future at such a dark and broken time? Israeli scholar Micah Goodman characterizes what happened on October 7 as a “near-death experience”; the aftermath of coming this close to perilous loss can be transformative.

If we dedicate the resources, energy, ideas, and effort to deepen our bond, this will be a transformative time for the Israel-Diaspora relationship. May a renewed sense of “we” inspire us to create a future in which we strengthen our connection, cultivating and sustaining genuine relationships with each other.

Note: More of my thoughts on cultivating personal ties with Israel can be found in an essay I was invited to write for Jewish Priorities: Sixty-five proposals for the future of our people, edited by David Hazony (Wicked Son 2023).

About the Author
Sally Abrams is Director of Judaism and Israel Education at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. She has taught thousands about Israel and/or Judaism in churches, classrooms, civic groups, and Jewish communal settings.
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