Stronger Together

This week I had the pleasure of hearing from Rabbi Leonid Feldman via web conference. Rabbi Feldman grew up in the former Soviet Union. He experienced violent anti-Semitism and spent time in a Soviet prison. He now serves as rabbi of a large conservative synagogue in West Palm Beach.

Rabbi Feldman told us a very moving story about a discussion with a fellow inmate while incarcerated. The other inmate comforted Rabbi Feldman with the idea that as a Jew, he would one day be free. The inmate shared that he was a Baptist, and while the president of the United States at that time (Carter) was also a Baptist, the president did not know him, and he did not care about him. Jews in America, Israel and France, however, did not know Feldman, but every one of them cared about him, and so one day he would be free.

So, 40 years later, Rabbi Feldman is a rabbi for the rich and famous in Florida, and the other inmate, in fact, did die while imprisoned.

Why did we hear this story this week?

In 1987, 250,000 Jews came together on the National Mall in Washington on behalf of Soviet Jewry. The Jewish people have a responsibility to be a light unto the other nations of the world and help perfect the world through acts of kindness and charity. The Talmud teaches that every Jew is responsible for one another.

History shows us that when united, we can do so much good. Yet our Jewish community is fragmenting with the rest of society. Anti-Semitism is spiking without any of our enemies inquiring about our individual political leanings. We do not need to always agree with each other, but civil discourse must return.

My apologies for being a little preachy this week. Moved by Rabbi Feldman’s remarks, I started thinking about how good we were, the obstacles to overcome now, and if we are capable of that greatness again.

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