If there is something that Jews have learned in their thousands of years of history it is that being Jewish is much more than a faith, a religion, a culture. It represents a people with a sense of continuity while also acknowledging our diversity of identities. Jewish identity and Jewish peoplehood are complex terms that have more to do with self-identification, a sense of belonging and interpretation, than with any political labels that can be applied by a government. Jews, whether living in Israel or the Diaspora, know they are Jewish but interpret and act on that knowledge in different ways; it is a much more dynamic process, an ever-evolving journey of exploration and discovery than any static simplification of who we really are.
At the Boston-Haifa Connection, a close to 30-year-old partnership between CJP and Boston Jews with the city and people of Haifa, we have been on this journey of discovery together; exploring, wrestling with issues, asking questions, searching for answers. These deep relationships being developed and strengthened over time have taught us a valuable lesson: that if we are to be one people, we need to acknowledge and celebrate what binds us together but also what makes us unique. Clearly, identity and religious practice in Israel and American Jewry can differ in numerous ways. What is remarkable is that in the process we have learned to value our Jewish pluralism above all. Our strength emanates from joining forces in our diversity, not creating divisions along silos or denominations.
That mutual respect is the basis for building a partnership that has been growing steadily with no signs of slowing down. Our love is to Israel and the Jewish people, and our journey together takes place in different forms. Whether in our school-to-school exchanges where thousands of students, educators and adults are able to be a part of transformative experiences; engaging with inspiring young Israeli ambassadors in Boston such as our Shinshinim or IDF officers; in our joint pursuit for social integration for immigrant populations like the Ethiopian community or providing better opportunities for families of young children at risk; in the interactions between our young adults trying to solve important social problems together; our work only strengthens our two communities.
By our very nature, we have become a pluralistic family of Jews of all ages, religious denominations and practices, and political views. Our strength is that we are committed to working together, deepening our bonds and developing a collective vision in spite of what may set us apart. More than ever, Jews need to remain united and pluralistic. This is Jewish peoplehood at its best: a sense of shared destiny and a deep investment in each other’s lives. At the Boston-Haifa Connection we know that we are stronger together than apart.
Ariel Libhaber and Vered Israely are the directors of the Boston-Haifa Connection and have each been involved with the program for over 10 years.