I love the Jewish people, and I love Atlanta. As a people, we have deep passions. As Jews living in the south who hail from all over the United States, we’ve built a beautiful mosaic here – a community with a diversity of perspectives and practices. Yet we are connected by a shared narrative, culture, history, shared struggles, and religion.
It’s complicated. That’s why everyone is experiencing this moment differently. As individuals and as a community, we are grappling with grief, working to empathize with others’ pain and struggles, and perhaps struggling at times to understand others’ perspectives.
I believe that as long as we remain connected – as long as we are a community – we have an opportunity to make a positive impact. But of course, how to do so is easier said than done.
This is a time for listening and learning. We owe it to ourselves to understand other perspectives. All voices are important. We’re all made in God’s image. I work every day to not judge anyone, and I do my best to understand how others come to their perspectives. I try to put myself in their shoes, stay open to changing my perspective, and even ready to adopt new ideas from people I love and respect. This is important to me because, in the end, we are a family. Judaism thrives when we are together as a community. Part of the beauty of our culture is that we’ve always welcomed a diversity of perspectives.
So what is the role of Federation in this context? Like everyone, we are listening and learning – guided by our mission, vision, and values. Part of building a strong, vibrant connected, caring community is playing a role in bringing different voices to the table in our community – and being at the table in the larger community.
Perhaps the greatest challenge along these lines is the perception that Federation might be attempting to speak for the community when really we’re doing our best to communicate with the community – speaking to people and listening to them – and, where we can, connecting people who might not otherwise be connected. Because that’s part of building community.
None of this is easy. I welcome you to let us know when you don’t think we get it right. I hope you will always find an openness to criticism here. I would only ask that we all afford each other some grace, particularly in this moment. Let’s assume we’re all working for a better world for us and for our children and their children, even if we come to that work from different perspectives.