Jews across the world have always had an interesting relationship with each other. Jewish Communities across the nation are as tight-knit as sardines in a can. Seriously, my grandma has had the same Jewish friends she has gossiped with since she was 10, and she’s 71. I have had the same best friends since I was three for crying out loud, and they’re all from my Jewish preschool. Even with this close bond that all Jews feel towards one another, there is some disconnect still. Despite our similarities, despite our similar traditions, despite our same Torah, despite the same belief in Kadosh Baruch Hu, Jews across denominations hate each other.
This is not a new conflict, or even a new idea. In the bible, the story of the golden calf. Some Jews didn’t believe or trust Moses, so they worshipped a golden calf and got swallowed. In the 2nd Temple Era, Jews hated each other. It says G-d let the temple be destroyed because there was a sense of bitter hatred for Jews against fellow Jews. The idea of a superiority complex among denominations is not a new trend, nor is one that is dying either.
So you may be wondering, reader somewhere out there, why I chose this topic. Simple, there is too much bitter hatred within the teenage Jewish Community. Over the past few months, some people in different Jewish youth groups came into the USY Facebook page to cause ruckus. There was no purpose of these kids to be in these Facebook groups besides to cause ruckus. USYers across the board were appalled and saying things like “I can’t believe how stupid and immature some people are” and “Baruch HaShem I’m not in that youth group.” Over the summer on USY Israel Summer Pilgrimage (EEIP G6 2k15 #victory), kids in my group would talk trash about the different youth groups at the hostel. How they would dress, how they would talk, how they would act to each other, every small detail of their day was scrutinized by the wannabe FBI agents of my trip. Why did my trip do this? No idea, but I know that those trips were doing the same thing to us. Why were they doing that to my trip? No idea, but it wasn’t out of retaliation. we were all just being hateful for no reason besides the fact that they were different.
Being different is good, but not all Jews believe so. On my trip, I experienced something I never could have imagined in my life. I have grown up in the incredible Conservative Judaism Community of Suburban Minneapolis my entire life. When I came out as gay back in 2012, it was no big deal at all. Everyone was supportive, no questions asked. As a Jew in Israel, I felt safe at every corner, besides this one day. This day, our trip was at the most beautiful hostel in the north. It could’ve been a box, but hey it was at least nicer than the place we stayed at in Eilat. That night on the trip, I called my mom to be the good Jewish boy she raised me to be. During my conversation, I was called out onto the balcony by my good friend. For the sake of the stories, I will make up names. Let’s call this boy Bob. Bob came into my room and said “Hey Jake, come out here! They want to meet you!” Confused, but trusting Bob, I stepped outside my room to be greeted by another teen from a more religious youth group. I introduced myself as any polite Minnesotan would do. As I was introducing myself, this girl, let’s call her Sarah, says “That’s him!” At this point I was beyond confused and said “Sarah, what’s going on?” Her response made me feel like I was powerless, small, endangered, and just defeated. Nonchalantly, she replied “oh Jake they just wanted to meet a real live gay person!”
“This is him?” said the teen from the other youth group. “You are gay?” To which I instantly responded with “no” as I thought I saw my life flashing in front of me. Sarah, may the Lord bless her, peeped up and spurted out “Oh Jake, don’t lie! Yeah he’s gay.” The response this teen had was so unexpected I couldn’t believe it. After threatening me that he was going to beat me, kill me and my family, and burn our bodies, he spat on my face and tried to throw the first punch. Lucky for me I have three brothers and have dodged a fair share of punches in my life. I ran into my room, locked the door, and started to cry.
This entire situation could have been avoided, easily.
If Sarah respected me or my safety enough, she wouldn’t have said anything. If that boy didn’t hate me on some preconceived notion that in leviticus 18:22 tells him that I am an abomination, I wouldn’t have felt the way I have. But self hating Jews don’t just appear on a violent level.
Across the United States, Jews use different denominations as insults to other Jews. “Oh you’re practically orthodox so it doesn’t count that you like to pray” or “Oh Reform Jews are basically Christians praying in Hebrew.”
We hate each other. The effects seem irreversible, but it starts with us. We need a reality change. We, as leaders wherever you may be reading this, must see this and stand up to the Jew-on-Jew hatred. Do not let some obnoxious kids ruin your view on the Reform Communities. Don’t let some hate crime caused by a Modern Orthodox ruin your view on more religious people. Also, don’t let some girl’s lack of thinking ruin your views on Conservative Jewry. A radical minority doesn’t represent a moderate majority. Please though, if we ever want a temple, or at least a kehila kedosha that will last unlike the 2nd one, we need to start getting along more. Stop judging someone based off of their denomination. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “I have a dream that one day, people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but rather the content of their character.” Well I have a dream, one day all Jews will get along, no matter their denomination. It starts with you, it starts with me, it starts today, it starts together. Thank you.
-Jake Klaiman, 11th Grade, Adath USY, EMTZA