By Tania Bohbot
That is not a shul. They have not been practicing correctly. That conversion was Reform, it doesn’t count. We’ve all heard the criticisms; the Orthodox are too strict, the Reform too liberal, and the Conservatives too lenient. In the past two centuries, Judaism has fallen into the dangerous game of having different sects. We all struggle to find a place within the community. Yet, while seeking approval from others, we lose what matters most within the process: finding the right path for our souls. We have put so much focus into distinguishing different sects of Judaism that we have lost ourselves as a nation.
Our trouble started in the 19th century, when Jews first began breaking off into sects. After this point, you were no longer just a Jew, but a specific kind of Jew. Why do we put so much emphasis on these divisions? Let’s be real, what does Orthodox actually mean? The word “orthodox” comes from the Greek word orthodoxia, which means “right teaching.” This use of the word stems from early Christianity’s attempt at unification; a religion that, in an attempt to become uniform, persecuted anyone who strayed from the “right” way. About two thousand years later, the Jewish people decided to label their own sects of Judaism. We, however, are not Christians. Judaism was never meant to diverge into separate paths.
My point is not to state that any sect is right or wrong. Moreover, it is not to say that we should all blend into one practice. People have different beliefs as to what is right, how we should connect to God, and how the Torah should be taught. Regardless of our practices, we are all children of God. Nevertheless, something must change; not for the sake of image, not for the sake of human approval, but for the sake of our religion’s survival as a whole. There is too much pain and persecution caused by those outside of the Jewish community that we should not be creating hate within.
The following words were published by Theodore Herzl in 1896, a time before Nazi Germany, the State of Israel, and the modern anti-Semitism we know today: “We naturally move to those places where we are not persecuted, and there our presence produces persecution…even in those highly civilized.” This has been true since day one. It is a pattern repeated throughout time, and yet we refuse to unify, even when it is most important. We have seen the destruction that our own hate brings. Sinat Achim (brotherly hatred) has been the root cause of every major destruction we have seen. The separation of the twelve tribes, the destruction of the second Temple, and the lack of brotherhood that is so prevalent today.
Anti-Semitism is what we should be fighting. Our differences are minuscule when our religion itself is threatened. This is a fight that can only be won when we are whole. Therefore, we must act in peace and be one. We have always been one nation separated by geographic barriers. Despite this, we are, and always have been, a people, children of God. We must start acting like it. Our different practices should not affect our love and respect for each other. We are Jews, one nation, that experiences persecution and perseverance as one.