by Adam Silver
(Calgary) – I recall being part of a board of directors for a Jewish day school in Toronto, and participating in a specific workshop with an aim at examining Israel education curriculum and delivery for students. Things we discussed included some strategies for deeper education and engagement, and conversations about ways the school could embed Israel into its neshama, its soul. More than a decade later, I still recall the overall theme applied to the learning – Ahavat Israel, literally translated as love for Israel, but intended to mean hugging and wrestling with Israel.
What a novel concept, I thought. To me, the idea of hugging and wrestling, of truly caring, encapsulates how many of us feel as we do our best to support Israel during challenging and ever changing times. When I engage with community members in conversations about Israel, most of them proudly identify a strong connection with our ancestral homeland. Many of those very same people share questions or meaningful concerns – about overall policy, about specific military activities, about gross disparities in resources between central Israel and its periphery communities, and so on. Still, their passion and care remains evident. Just as we accept family members and friends for their strengths and their deficiencies, so too do we accept Israel, warts and all.
That’s not to say we should ignore attributes or actions we find challenging or troublesome, but just as with family and friends, we must recognize Israel’s uniqueness, growing pains, and the various things the country and its existence mean to different people. Our community is diverse and its members hold a breadth of views. Often, we have discussed Israel’s complexities, and have agreed to disagree if not fully aligned. However, the recent polarization of views in our community (and beyond) feels different to me these days. I am hopeful we can remain strong as a community, and focus on, as articulated in CIJA’s recent virtual town hall, Unity, not Uniformity.
We do not all need to hold the same views, but I would like to appeal to Jewish Calgary that we must have constructive, respectful dialogue. I continue to see thoughts expressed which seem to drive us apart on the topic of Israel, instead of bringing us together to share in important and thoughtful conversations. It is my hope that we will individually and collectively find ways to appreciate Israel’s strengths, to struggle with how we (or the country) might address some of the imperfections we see, and to dream about and create all that Eretz Israel can be for us now, and for generations to come.
Adam Silver is CEO, Calgary Jewish Federation.