The Jerusalem Post features two opinion pieces calling for greater displays of Jewish unity – Gil Troy asserts that Israel’s secular leaders need to take a greater part in the public mourning of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva and a Baltimore-based Orthodox rabbi says denominational leaders need to find a way to pray together in one sanctuary.
The mass funeral on Friday March 7, outside the stricken yeshiva, was broadcast live on Israeli television, uniting the entire house of Israel in mourning. As the cameras showed one sobbing mourner after another, many viewers sitting comfortably in their own homes cried too. Alas, through the tears, one noticed something missing. In the clump of eulogizers at the front, not one leading secular politician stood, and not one secular leader spoke. That even Jerusalem’s mayor, Uri Lupolianski, is Orthodox, added to the one-sided impression. The mourning for this national tragedy appeared on television as a funeral limited to the religious community.
President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and the cabinet ministers represent the entire country. All Israelis pay their salaries, whatever ideology the citizens may embrace. As part of the national mourning process, secular representatives of the government should have attended. Even if their security details advised against appearing, true leaders need to show leadership sometimes. Democratic leaders who fear their constituents are failing at an essential part of the job description and should consider early retirement.
The rabbi (Murray Singerman):
There is another path, one which could shore up the breach, slacken the flow of Jews deciding to opt out, and attract back those who have already left. Rabbis of different denominations should reach across the divide and find theological solutions to not only work together for the social betterment of the community, but most importantly for Jewish unity, worship together.
For the sake of the future of the Jewish people, it is time for our rabbinic leadership to reach out to other denominations and find the will to pray together in one sanctuary. This would create a new paradigm of worship, in which rabbis, standing before the Almighty, will show their congregants that a Jewish world can stand together, not just apart.
Students of history will scoff at such an effort. The pessimistic historian will cite millennia of Jewish theological rifts. The optimist, however, will ignore these precedents, if only because a Jewish optimist is committed to ahavat hinam, boundless love for other Jews.