Stronger Together: Jewish unity, not uniformity

Tags: Jewish Unity, Jewish Identity, Shavuot

By Dr. Elana Yael Heideman

We all feel it. Jewish history is at a crossroads. The issues that divide us are not only affecting the way we think about our fellow Jews, they are affecting the way we feel about ourselves, our identity, and our nation.

One of the challenges facing the Jewish People today is the growing lack of interest and recognition of Israel as an integral part of Jewish life and identity. After 2,000 years of an ongoing connection with our ancestral homeland, we are witnessing a prevalence of disenchantment or outright antagonism that increasingly distances Diaspora Jewry from recognizing the value of a meaningful connection with Israel.

What can we do to enable everyone to look at Israel and the Jewish nation as a whole and feel unified - feel like they too belong? Why is it that so many of our own, feel like they don’t have a place. Or feel like they need to conform? Why can’t we simply be proud of being a Jew in whatever way that speaks to us? It doesn’t mean we all have to see Israel as a physical home right now. But ideally, Israel is a place that is meant to encapsulate and appreciate all Jews - Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Religious and Non-religious, Assimilated and Traditional.

In spite of the rise of Antisemitism, the negative rhetoric centered around Israel, and the challenging issues that we face, Israel remains an eternal and integral part of Jewish life and identity.

We don’t all have to have the same background, political leanings or opinions. Yet we are all part of the story of Am Yisrael. No geographical or political divide can diminish the significance of that.

This is true whether or not we actively embrace this. The magical thing is that, when we do fully embrace this, we become stronger - as individuals and as a community.

While we cannot expect a static and unwavering relationship with Israel, there definitely exists a tangible will and desire to connect to our Jewish homeland. World Jewry is waiting for us to reach out and talk to them.

© 2018 אוסף התצלומים הלאומי Photo by Kobi Gideon

We see the best examples of this in the testimonials of those who use our content in both formal and informal learning environments.

What I love about Israel Forever is that you just spread awareness -- you are not politically affiliated nor do you ever spread hatred you are just about "we love Israel and the Jewish people" and that's a very positive message that not only do I think *I* can relate to but I think it is very powerful in getting many people engaged as well!” - Alex Toussieh, Mexico

There is one place I find my Israel sunshine and my inspiration - through the Israel Forever Foundation I can be a part of our majestic homeland from any place on earth. I'm able to refresh myself from the assaults that never cease and remind others that no matter what may come Israel truly is forever!

Through Israel Forever, I feel enabled to nurture the Israel connection that I cherish. We can all find something that resonates in our own experience or creates an equally-compelling association. While I can’t afford to always visit, IFF allows me to stay “in a relationship” with Israel. This keeps me invigorated, inspired in my commitment to Israel, and ultimately fosters feelings of warmth toward the Jewish state. - Rhonda Blender

Indeed, the words of those actively engaged with Israel Forever demonstrate our success at what we aim to do - initiate more consistent Israel engagement and enhance the power of the experience of Jewish unity (not uniformity!).

This is the the goal of the Israel Forever Foundation in general and the Stronger Together Initiative in particular.

In the face of general misinformation and the negative tone of political discourse we want to illustrate how the Diaspora-Israel relationship can thrive from a renewed sense of understanding, respect, and pride in Israel for all Jews. In achieving this, we strengthen our personal identity and provide a platform on which we can build a unified community.

Together we have the strength to attain any goal we set for ourselves and overcome any challenge - no matter how large or frightening it might seem.

Unity is always a positive state to strive for - unity, not uniformity. In uncertain times, it is more important than ever. That’s what Stronger Together is all about.

Dr. Elana Heideman is a scholar of Holocaust, Antisemitism, Zionism and Jewish Identity and currently serves as the Executive Director of The Israel Forever Foundation. A passionate Holocaust educator, independent lecturer and educational consultant, Elana’s range of activities demonstrate the intensity of her commitment to incorporating understanding of and respect for the history and rights of the Jewish People. Through her involvement with numerous programs, projects and lectures, Elana continually seeks to facilitate dialogue and build bridges between the past, present and future. Elana earned her PhD under the mentorship of Elie Wiesel and made Aliyah in 2005, now living in Nes Harim with her tour guide husband, Jano Gleizer, and her 3 children, Eytam, Noam and Ayelet.

About the Author

Dr.  Elana Yael Heideman
Dr. Elana Yael Heideman, Executive Director of The Israel Forever Foundation, is a dynamic and passionate educator who works creatively and collaboratively in developing content and programming to deepen and activate the personal connection to Israel for Diaspora Jews. Elana’s extensive experience in public speaking, educational consulting and analytic research and writing has served to advance her vision of Israel-inspired Jewish identity that incorporates the relevance of the Holocaust, Antisemitism and Zionism to contemporary issues faced throughout the Jewish world in a continuous effort to facilitate dialogue and build bridges between the past, present and future.

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Tags: Jewish Unity, Jewish Identity, Shavuot