It’s complicated and very filtered
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It’s complicated and very filtered

Laurie Siegel is a Jewish communal professional and has been working in that field for many years. She also is a ceramist, making functional and one-of-a-kind art. Laurie and her husband live in Fort Lee.

Dani Dayan (Jeff Karg)
Dani Dayan (Jeff Karg)

[EDITOR’S NOTE: I had a public discussion with Dani Dayan, Israel’s Consul General in New York, at the Rockland Federation’s office at the Rockland JCC last week. We began with an explanation of his constraints as a diplomat, and the filter through which he had to put all his comments. –JP]

Ambassador Dani Dayan, consul general of Israel in New York, spoke to an overflowing crowd in West Nyack last week, hosted by the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Rockland County. We all came to hear him: from the yeshiva teens at Bais Ya’akov to the self-filtered secularists. From the Zionists to those who believe that only the messiah will bring about a State of Israel. We each hear you through our own filters, and you are correct. This is a complicated relationship.

Yes, ambassador, relationships are always complicated. We all see through our own filters. We understand through our own filters. And this diaspora/Israeli relationship is fraught with complications.

The ambassador spoke of an “extra mitzvah” — a calling, if you will. That there was a generation who tried to save European Jewry, and failed. That the next generation tried to save Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, and succeeded. And what is the extra mitzvah that this new generation must succeed in? Imagine a Venn diagram, he said. One circle is the entire diaspora. The other is Israel. And the intersection of those two circles? That is the complicated relationship that we must succeed in maintaining and growing. This generation has an obligation to filter out Ashkenazi vs Sephardi, to filter out charedi vs secular. That is our extra mitzvah — to filter it all out and work together to understand each other, to support each other, whether we are the same or different. Because we are Jews. All of us.

And this will take a lot of hard work. To overcome stereotypes — which are really the others’ filters. Who is Israel’s enemy? It’s not her Arab neighbors, per se. It’s not even Lebanon or Syria. It’s Iran, according to the ambassador. Iran is enemy number one. Iran is enemy number two, and so on.

We are not each other’s enemy. Let me repeat that: we are not each other’s enemy.

So where do we go from here?

We fight anti-Semitism — together. Because an act of hate against one of us is an act of hate against all of us. We lift those filters and try to get to know our neighbor, whether they look like us or not. Because we are all Jews. We welcome new neighbors, because that was what we were taught. To be kind and generous. To bring over brownies — whether they are homemade or glatt kosher — because that is the right thing to do. And it’s a start. No matter what our Jewish practice, or what clothes we wear, or what our belief system may be. Because God created us all.

If we are going to combat hate, let’s do it together. If we are going to help Israel, because Israel needs us as much as we need Israel — let’s do it together.

You may ask how. And I don’t have the answer. But a plate of brownies might be a good way to start.

Laurie Siegel is a Jewish communal professional and has been working in that field for many years. She also is a ceramist, making functional and one-of-a-kind art. Laurie and her husband live in Fort Lee.

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