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Better dialogue needed

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2004-12-31

Unity needed in Jewish community

Unity needed in community

Two Rabbis from different religious backgrounds share a platform in public... Sounds like the start of a joke, but this is no joke.

You would think that British Jewish religious leaders would take part in public debates, after all, if they will share platforms with other faiths and creeds, why not with fellow Jews, albeit from a different perspective?
But for some reason, there's been a bit of a taboo between parts of the Jewish community speaking in public with each other. Actually, for many it's a big taboo.  Shock horror,  a United Synagogue rabbi and a Reform, or Liberal should talk in public, even shake hands?  What really is wrong with meeting another Jew?
So it was rather warming to read in the Jewish Chronicle that at last week's Limmud, a United Synagogue rabbi and a Masorti rabbi actually spoke together in public.
As a generally shrinking community, the more we can do to strengthen internal community dialogue and understanding the more we can appreciate the contribution each section of the community makes towards positive Jewish life in Britain.
How sad and pathetic that I need to say how great it was for these two rabbis to share a platform, it should always happen.  Not just a one-off event.
Yes, some rabbis will meet up in private and discuss issues of shared interest, but doing in in private in not the same as doing it in public.
We need to stop the conflict and divide inside the community and unite. 
After all, anti-semites don't care whether you are a United Synagogue member, Reform or any other type of Jew.  You are just a Jew. As we know through history, those who killed and attacked us, did not do so because we were one specific type of Jew or identified with one specific element of the Jewish religion. 
What really is the big deal with Jewish people from different perspectives sharing a platform and talking, exchanging views and generally kibitzing in public?
The British Jewish community needs and appreciates leaders who engage in dialogue and that extends to internal community relations.
What we need to see is a memo go out to all Jewish rabbis and other communal leaders:
It should say: Start talking to Jewish people outside of your own little network of people you know. You might learn something and they will also learn as well.
As one great Jewish leader once said; "It's a mitzvah to be happy".  Surely the more we can do to develop better dialogue within our own community, the more it will strengthen and have much more of a positive impact on the future.