Photo is of the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus in Phoenix, Arizona.
Being in Phoenix recently to help that community’s Federation address issues reminded me of our connectedness as Jews, no matter where we go. There is a special kinship among us; an unspoken bond that internalizes then externalizes the teaching that “All Jews Are Responsible For One Another.”
I began thinking about this the Sunday night I arrived as I sat among hundreds at the Phoenix JCC, none of whom I knew, all participating in Yom Hazikaron — a remembrance of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror. I looked at the sea of faces, didn’t recognize a single person, yet felt as if I knew them all. I was home among family in a place I’d never been.
I felt the power of this connectedness again when two people I knew well stopped by the JCC later in the week to visit. Rabbi Michael Wasserman and Rabbi Elana Kanter, a unique husband-wife team, had lived in Birmingham before moving to Phoenix 17 years ago. It was a delightful reconnection and, ironically, Rabbi Kanter had just come from doing a distance-learning program for a group in Birmingham. Talk about connectedness.
A day later, while meeting with Phoenix’s new Federation director in his office, a woman popped in and greeted me with a huge smile. “You don’t know me,” she said, “but I want to thank you. You and your wife Sally were so nice and welcoming to my daughter years ago when she lived in Birmingham for a short while, that when I heard you were here I wanted to come by and thank you.” It was another wonderful connection.
Mark Twain famously asked what is the secret behind the “immortality” of the Jews? For me, it was on display during my week in Phoenix: Connectedness.
As Jews not only are we responsible for one another, we are connected. I’m literally finishing this Update piece as I land back in Birmingham. I can’t wait to be back at our Federation Monday because it is our connectedness and responsibility for one another that makes the work we do holy.