Jews — few or many — set an example of partnership and cooperation with our non-Jewish neighbors, no matter what their religion, ethnicity or race, when we show we care about those around us.
This year saw some great Jewish highs — two gold medals for Israel in the Tokyo Olympics — and some great Jewish lows — a COVID-violating engagement party in Australia caught on tape, mocking a universal lockdown.
We saw Israel taking the lead in vaccines — inoculating Arab and Jew in Israel as equals and sharing vaccination information with the world — and we saw Jews heaping abuse at other Jews for merely praying in the egalitarian section of the Western Wall.
Jews in America, in all their political and religious diversity, came together for Zoom rallies, Washington rallies and West Bloomfield rallies to fight antisemitism, and we looked on in horror as our fellow Jews were violently and verbally abused — simply for being Jewish.
In a year of COVID, there were many highs and lows, but I would like in particular to ask: Am I my brother’s keeper? Am I responsible for all Jews and can I get nachas (prideful joy) from Jews I don’t even know and who don’t know me?
Indeed, Jewish accomplishments make us feel so proud to be Jewish. Didn’t we feel that sense of Jewish pride and Jewish unity seeing everyone stand for “Hatikva” in Tokyo? But doesn’t the worst behavior by Jews stir in us a collective desire to repent?
Watching videos of that terrible religious engagement party in Australia or videos of Jews screaming at other Jews because they pray differently — how painful for all Jews, and how deeply disturbing and thought-provoking at this time of introspection and asking of forgiveness. We are, after all, one people, with one heart, with a common destiny.
As director of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC of Detroit, I see firsthand how the rest of the community sees Jews as one, where one Jew doing good can be so meaningful to all our people, and one Jew doing bad things can be so detrimental.
There is never an excuse for antisemitism and never an excuse for the world to condemn Jews as a collective. At the same time, our tradition tells us Kol Yisrael Areivim Ze Bazeh — all Jews are responsible — literally, guarantors — for each other.
All of us must unite to take pride when one of us does something commendable or incredible; we must also condemn actions that harm the world and bring embarrassment to our people and to God, even if just a few Jews, far away, are doing them.
Just as the world saw proud Jews during the Olympics, I was so heartened that some of the greatest rabbis, in particular, Rav Eliezer Melamed, condemned those who heaped insults and vitriol on those praying at the Kotel’s egalitarian section.
We cannot escape responsibility for each other’s actions; we must share in the praise when one of us wins a gold and we must share in the concern when even one of us acts badly.
The Need For Unity
Jews — few or many — set an example of partnership and cooperation with our non-Jewish neighbors, no matter what their religion, ethnicity or race, when we show we care about those around us. Indeed, one of the best ways to fight antismetism and ignorance is to demonstrate to the greater society how unified the Jews are in promoting ethical work that makes the greater Metro Detroit a better place to live for all of us.
As we get ready to observe Rosh Hashanah, the holiday where Jews celebrate the creation of the universe, the JCRC/AJC celebrates not only the impact our Jewish community can have on the broader community, but also the importance of the Jewish community accepting responsibility, as one, as guarantors for each other. Rosh Hashanah tells us that each Jew has a responsibility to the great world that God created and a responsibility to encourage every other Jew to work hard to better this world as well.
L’shanah tovah, for a year of good health, free from the shackles of COVID, full of Jewish pride and filled with a deep sense of responsibility to look out for each other and work as a unified people to improve this great world we are blessed to live in.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin is executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee.