If I am not for me, then who will be?
If I am only for me, then who am I?
If not now, then when?
Rabbi Hillel, 1st century CE
How and why did this happen? It’s often through the best of intentions, including promoting Jewish values of welcoming strangers and creating an “open tent” in our community. These are important concepts, but not everybody has the same good intentions. We learned that there are antisemitic JVP members on synagogue and Jewish Federation boards, and teaching children at our religious schools. There were board members who were actively supporting the local government in efforts to discriminate against Israel. And most distressing, there are rabbis in our area who vigorously and publicly oppose the Jewish State of Israel, including at least one who wanted to honor the memory of PLO terrorist Yasser Arafat.
When we dilute our leadership with people who don’t share our love for Israel and the Jewish people, we pass on this ambivalence to our children and the rest of our local community, which has a rippling effect that does grievous harm to American Judaism and our brethren in Israel. We become so enamored with Rabbi Hillel’s words about looking out for others that we forget the first line of his trilogy is “If I am not for me, then who will be?”
So what Actions can guide our Jewish communities back on a welcoming, growing, thriving path?