We have all heard the comical saying: “Ask two Jews, Get three opinions!” With over 100,000 Jews in Orange County today, imagine the number of opinions among us about what a Shabbat service should look like, how to conduct a Passover seder or the best bagel in town. We are all of the same tribe, yet it presents a mind-boggling challenge to identify the thread that could unite us as a people.
Our best clue, perhaps, comes from a quote from the Ethics of Our Fathers,
“Ben Zoma says: Who is wise? He who learns from all people.”
At Irvine Hebrew Day School we embrace this adage by guiding our children in the celebration of diversity which begins with learning from one another. Our children practice listening without judgement, asking respectful curiosity questions and solving differences cooperatively as a community. Beginning with our children, we are uniting Jewish families from all backgrounds, teaching them to rejoice in that which unites us and to embrace our differences. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says: “We celebrate both our commonalities and differences, because if we had nothing in common we could not communicate, and if we had everything in common, we would have nothing to say.”
How does one celebrate Jewish diversity and create true Jewish unity? Just as musicians must learn music fundamentals to create complex harmony, Jewish people can be equipped with core Jewish knowledge as a unifying tool. Our traditions, values and teachings belong to each one of us, regardless of our differences; and as we delve into Jewish texts and learn more about our heritage, we stop focusing on the colors of the individual thread, but enjoy the tapestry as a whole.
To build unity and celebrate our uniqueness, let us teach our children that Jewish individuality is the force that strengthens us as a people.
Tammy Keces M.A. is the principal of Irvine Hebrew Day School and a lead Certified Positive Discipline Trainer.