“And you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, since you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)
In a few hours, we will welcome Shabbat and continue in our reading of Exodus, which lays the foundation for the story of Passover. In this story, our sacred book tells us that we must treat others as we treat ourselves because we were once in their shoes: we were once slaves in a land not our own. We are compelled to act with mercy and compassion.
There are conversations happening all around us about our national policies. Though a nonpartisan organization, we will always stand for Jewish values and it is in this light that we want to incubate opportunities for civil—and compassionate—discourse in our community. As Jews, however, how do we get beyond the division and find common ground?
This brings to mind some of what I experienced in Israel last month on my Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) mission. One of our speakers, Dr. Tal Becker, a Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute and Legal Advisor at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was diving deep into the divide of American Jewry with regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Dr. Becker plainly stated: It's about the conversation. What ties us together is not what we can agree upon but that we are simply participating in the same moral conversation. Therefore, in the complex dialogues we are having today, let us remember that what ties us together are our Jewish values and traditions. This is the common ground that deepens our connection to one another.
Our world has changed and continues to change. The role of Jewish Federation & Family Services is to support respectful conversations and to create a platform for civil discourse and collaboration. This past Sunday, we joined our Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters for a Town Hall: Coming Together to Combat Hate in Our Community. Led by the Rose Project of JFFS, this important evening explored ways to bring Orange County’s diverse communities together to counter the rise in racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic incidents. As the dialogue continues, we invite you to be part of the conversation and, above all else, to do so with the kindness and compassion imbued in us by our Jewish faith.