Sunday, July 22, 2007

Appreciating Each Other

I mentioned in a post a few days ago about going back to teach in the computer lab at the religious school where I taught last year. I was given a copy of the calendar and I noticed it listed the Jewish Holidays as “Reform” and “Orthodox and Conservative”. I was a little confused until I took a closer look and noticed that what was done here was the second day of the Holidays was listed as “Orthodox and Conservative”.

I made some comment to the Rabbi who heads up the religious school and she told me that even though this is a reform congregation, she lists it this way on the schedule because she will not have school on the first OR second day of the Holiday.

“Even though we are a reform synagogue we have a number of teachers from all different backgrounds,” she explained,” and I refuse to make anyone take off a day from a religious school because of a Jewish Holiday”. She explained that there were people there who disagreed with her, telling her that as long as the synagogue was reform, they should just follow that schedule. Again, the Rabbi reiterated, “I won’t do that”.

I applaud her for that decision. Not only does it make my life easier because I do not need to make alternate arrangements, it is the right thing to do. Sometimes there is too much tension between Jews and different segments of Jews (or even same) and it is refreshing to see this attitude.

My father used to say, “You know, the Orthodox don’t want to talk to the Conservatives, the Conservatives don’t want to talk to the Reform, maybe G-d isn’t ready to talk to the Jewish people. I, personally, have been fortunate that a number of people I associate with, from all different walks of life, actually do not follow this approach.

Certainly the Rabbi where I teach was willing to recognize all branches of Judaism. After I graduated from college, I found a synagogue that I liked and the Orthodox Rabbi there, along with the Reform Rabbi in the same area used to hold a joint Tashlich service on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. There is another Rabbi in the community, an Orthodox one, who also falls right in with this group.

I went to pay a shivah call after his mother passed away. He talked for a bit about his mother and then started telling a story about his travels. He explained that when he travels, on Shabbos, he likes to be with Jews. If he cannot find an Orthodox community, he will look for any Jewish community. One time, he found an egalitarian service. He said that they politely invited him to daven but since there was no separation between men and women, he politely declined. They offered to separate the seating but he told them he did not want them to change their policy on his account. The insisted and accommodated him. This, to me, shows the best of everyone on all sides.

The only thing that was unfortunate about this story was before he told it he looked around and said, “I have to be careful who I tell this story to”. In other words, there are people in his congregation that would not approve of the method he used. I think that is unfortunate. However, I seem to be seeing more and more of the accepting mannerisms taking place. I hope that is not just my perception but reality. Once we learn to accept each other, we will be able to create a better world.

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