This got us thinking about how contentious the Jewish community can be, how special interests are often put ahead of the common good, how egos can harden hearts, how winning can become more important than achieving … no different than any other community, really. And that’s just the point; we tend to expect something more from ourselves.
Then, in the middle of our nattering negativism, this week’s story about the Yeshiva Schools, Hillel Academy and Community Day School bringing together more than 800 students to celebrate Lag B’Omer came up, and it was like the sun breaking through on a cloudy, rainy day. It shed light on last week’s Community Shabbaton at Congregation Beth Shalom, where congregations and organizations as diverse as the Agency for Jewish Learning, Adat Shalom, Beth Shalom USY, Congregation Dor Hadash, J-Burgh, Jewish Community Center of Great Pittsburgh, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, New Light Congregation, Rodef Shalom Congregation, Temple Sinai and Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha joined forces to create an environment where the community can come together. And the unprecedented collaboration between Beth El Congregation’s Early Childhood Program (BENS) and the Early Childhood Department of the South Hills branch of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, JFest bringing the community together to celebrate Israel Independence Day, Jewish Association on Aging working with community schools on a “What My Bubie/Zadie or Senior Friend Means to Me” art and essay contest.
And the list goes on.
The Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community has learned how to transcend the petty, the greedy and the selfish in the name of the common good. Like Israel, our community is facing unprecedented challenges that have some very real, very serious consequences that will affect its future. Congregation memberships are down, charitable donations are down and the effects of secularism are more challenging than ever.
Rather than circling the wagons and defending their own, the members of our community are joining hands and forming a circle of solidarity. Competitors are becoming teammates, rivals are becoming partners and special interests are giving way to common good.
It would be easy to write off this display of camaraderie as simple pragmatism, doing whatever needs to be done to survive, and there’s nothing wrong with that … survival is a good thing. But far more than survival, this unity, this sharing of purpose is a matter of faith, tradition and love.
It is the spirit of mitzva, tzedaka and tikun olam manifest in the actions of a community that should be proud of its commitment and accomplishments … and that can teach a thing or two to the rest of the world.