The recent incident in Texas points up yet again the importance of relations such as ours with Bat Yam. For those who think antisemitism is a thing of the past, something confined to Nazi Germany, it was a frightening reminder that it still haunts our world. I know it has proven very unsettling to my Jewish friends and neighbors. And it is unsettling to me as well.
Annually our congregation is part of a pulpit exchange with our sister congregation Bat Yam--Temple of the Islands. Bat Yam is a Reform Jewish congregation that shares our space. We share a number of activities over the course of each year, some of which have been highlighted in previous posts on this blog. And in many ways the highlight of our shared life was a trip we took to Israel which featured daily posts while we were traveling. Many of our respective members have gotten to really know one another--and we all are better educated about the lives and faith of our counterparts.
I am not so naive as to think a relationship such as the one my congregation has with Bat Yam is the sole answer to antisemitism. Certainly, tough laws and the faithful enforcement of them are important. Being prepared to respond when there are life threatening circumstances is vital. And speaking up whenever antisemitism or any other ugly bias surfaces is essential. But long term the fear and hatred that lies at the root of antisemitism is a matter of the heart. And hearts are truly changed only when we get to know each other at more than a mere surface level. When I am able to see that you are at core a human being with many of the same concerns, interests, hopes and dreams as those that I have, then I can begin to treat you with respect, or at least with a sense of tolerance.
The reality is this: my life is greatly enriched and expanded by the shared journey I am on with Bat Yam. And so too the lives of my congregants. For when we open our hearts to one another, we can be joined together in a powerful way. Joined together as human beings, joined together with the Holy One.