It’s a running joke that anytime two Jews meet, it turns into a game of Jewish Geography, discovering who you know in common and where you’ve been in common. As the great players of Jewish Geography will tell you, we don’t do this to test or to vet each other; we do it to connect and to feel that personal link with our fellow Jew.
We as Jews are so good at doing this on a person-to-person level, but once we start talking about larger groups, like Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or even secular, we negate that other group’s Jewishness and refuse to play the game. We see these Jews who practice our faith differently; not as one people.
And this division is killing us.
We do great damage to our own people when we let these divisions drive people away from Judaism.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise globally. More and more people have been emboldened to deny that the Holocaust ever happened. Many politicians, especially those in the United Nations, allow their anti-Semitic bias to color their views of Israel, our people’s historical homeland. Israel is painted as a monster in the media with many false narratives and, by extension, the Jews are demonized.
We have seen this before and know where it leads.
Our greatest weapon against these bigots and ignorant haters is our unity. We must remain strong and unified in the face of the hatred persistently growing against us.
On Friday, Sept. 7, participate in the Day of Jewish Unity with me. This annual event, held by Acheinu, the outreach branch of Jewish education organization Dirshu, works to unite Jews around the globe in prayer for peace and a pledge to refrain from gossip and slander. It is a day when we are asked to set our differences aside and declare to the world that we are one people. And we are one people — even when it is sometimes difficult to tell.
In order to be a strong, singular people, we must look at what unites us, not what divides us. At the end of the day, we all come from a strong heritage that is millennia old and filled with brave and outspoken people. And, according to the rabbis, we were all together — as one people — at Mount Sinai when God gave us the Torah. If God saw fit to put us all together, who are we to split us apart now?
Even more so, now that the game of Jewish Geography has gone scientific, we can connect ourselves to people around the world through our DNA. As our people take DNA tests or sign in to genealogy websites, we discover dozens of new connections with long-lost cousins. We are not just co-Jews; we are family.
And these bonds do not always have to span the globe; sometimes they can be right down the block. A friend of mine, who lives in Connecticut, recently told me that between Facebook and a DNA company, she found 3 cousins that she did not even know she had and they all lived within walking distance to her! Two of the cousins went to her shul. One of the cousins were in three classes of her daughter’s at a public school.
After hearing this story and having a hearty chuckle, I got to thinking about how Jewish Geography has expanded. It has become a new game called Jewish Genealogy.
When we pray on the High Holidays we are supposed to ask God to forgive not just our own sins, but the sins of all in our community. That is because even though we don’t always get along, we are really all one family.
That is why I will be praying on September 7, the Day of Jewish Unity. You can find more out about this day on: www.dayofjewishunity.com