On Relating to the Other as Part of Jewish Identity

I was recently asked whether I deal in issues of Jewish Identity in my work in Interreligious Relations in Israel. To be frank, I was surprised by the question. All of my work flows from my Jewish Identity.

This reminds me of an incident that happened to me a few years ago. I was asked by a Jewish group in Israel to give a lecture on my work in Interreligious Dialogue and Education. When I told the contact person what I do, she said, “That’s not for us. We are dealing only with Jewish Identity!”

Does Jewish Identity only involve concern for ourselves and our own tribe? or are we not part of the human family?

As I remember, Hillel once said; “if I am not for myself, what am I. But if I am only for myself? And, if not now, when?” An integral part of being Jewish is caring for others beyond my tribe. Otherwise, we shouldn’t be surprised if the world forgets about us and our tribe.

The upcoming Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipppur are replete with prayers that remind us that we are not only Jews, but also human beings. There, this month, in preparation for these holidays, let us be mindful of this fact.

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