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March 16, 2018 12:39 pm

AIPAC, Purim and the Need for American Jewish Unity

avatar by Joshua Goldstein

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Israeli PM Netanyahu addresses the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder.

The 2018 annual AIPAC policy conference, which this year was held right after Purim in Washington, DC, offered a perfect opportunity to reflect on the value of Jewish unity.

News reports say that more than 18,000 participants attended the AIPAC conference. Each individual attendee was clearly committed to supporting Israel.

Still, there is no question that AIPAC attendees maintain widely contrasting views of both how to support Israel, and what is best for Israel. This is the challenge — and the hurtle. With everyone voicing their own agenda and views on how we can best help Israel from the US, we forget about the elephant in the room: developing a mutual respect for Jews from different camps and beliefs.

It is high time to start this dialogue, and to create the atmosphere for fostering unity.

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The Herut World Movement is in the midst of a “Jewish Unity Challenge.” This is a personal call to all Jews, including you, to start reaching out across the aisle — to create one united Jewish people. Just because Jews come from many different backgrounds and hold different beliefs, doesn’t mean that we cannot show love and respect for one another.

Our diverse types, colors, and traditions should be seen as a strength for all of us, rather than foster exclusivity, elitism, selectiveness and even superiority.

Ahavat Yisrael — the unconditional love of our fellow Jews — should not be seen as some unattainable dream. In our time, we can make it a reality. We should not have to rely on the threat of antisemitism and impending dangers affecting Israel as the only things.

The lack of love and unity was considered by the ancient Jewish sages of the era of the Mishnah to be the root cause of the destruction of the Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem. If we can re-introduce ourselves and start the process of accepting one another, in the spirit of Ahavat Yisrael, we can again grow as individuals — and as a collective nation.

The Jewish Unity Challenge is designed to spark a conversation between the diverse types of Jews, so that we can achieve greater things for the state of Israel and the Jewish people.

It’s time to put aside differences that we may have with other Jews, and focus on the wonderful, time-honored things that unite us as Jews. This is your individual challenge. And this is our collective challenge as a community.

What we are talking about is simple, yet we call it a challenge because it is not so easy. When it comes down to it, many of us have a knee-jerk reaction to leaving our comfort zone. It is time to look at the bigger picture, to let go a little, and to reach across the table.

This forces us to re-examine our biases and to change our thinking. And now is the right time to start this.

The Herut World Movement is dedicated to the values of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who was a key leader of world Zionism before World War Two; he was the mentor of Menachem Begin, and a champion of Jewish unity. And in Jabotinsky’s honor, we have launched this campaign.

Let us discuss what is best for Israel and the Jewish people. Let us argue, but let us discuss these opinions and remember that all Jews are responsible one for another — no matter our backgrounds, beliefs, colors, etc.

Thousands of Jews came together in common cause in Washington, DC, through AIPAC, because they care about Israel’s future and the well-being of the Jewish people.

The Tanach relates that in the time of Esther and Mordechai, Jews were called upon to join together to pray, fast and physically defend themselves.

Late last year we marked the 30th anniversary Freedom Sunday for Soviet Jews. That December 6, 1987 rally saw more than a quarter million American Jews unite on the National Mall in Washington, to stand up for Soviet Jews at what was the single largest gathering of Jews in US history.

From Purim, to AIPAC 2018, to Freedom Sunday, we have shown that Jews with different ideas can stand together. Now is the time to do more than stand together. Now in the aftermath of Purim and AIPAC, let us show that we can all love each other in Jewish unity.

Take the Challenge, and view our petition here.

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