The aim of this activity is to explore the tensions underlying Jewish community life today and to consider what - if anything - can be done about this situation.

  • With the help of the group, list on the board as many different groups of Jews as they can think of (including Jews of different religious streams, different ethnic backgrounds and different political ideologies). Mark off the groups that are represented in your (wider) community. Ask why the differences exist, especially examining (briefly) the effect of modernity on the Jewish world.
  • Ask the group what they think all these Jews have in common. Are the similarities greater than the differences, or is the opposite true? If they say that the similarities are greater, ask whether this is clearly borne out in the behavior of modern Jews, or whether they can think of instances where it seems that the differences are paramount. Ask whether this diversity is healthy or negative - or both. Would it be good to bring the groups closer together, or is there value in leaving the situation as it is today?
  • Hand out the piece by Philip Roth. Why are the modern Jews of the community so threatened by the ‘intruders’? Is it just a question of their lack of knowledge and ‘ignorance’ of Jewish tradition, as exemplified perhaps by the remarks about the Akedah? If they were much more knowledgeable in Jewish studies, would they still feel so threatened? Do the students think that such fear justified? How would they feel in similar circumstances?
  • If such different groups exist in your local Jewish community, you could send the students out to different parts of it. They could conduct brief street interviews to clarify how Jews see other Jews within the community. You will need to write a brief questionnaire for this purpose.
  • Regardless of whether the students conduct a street survey, you should now divide them into small groups. Give each group the name of one of the groups of Jews that appear on the board as present in your community. If the list is too short for this purpose, it may be worth adding other groups even if they do not exist in your particular community. Each group must write an appeal to that sector of the community, asking it to be more accepting of other Jews and to open up (without losing its own identity) to Jews in the community who think differently. In order to do this effectively, they must first analyze the problems, fears and sensitivities of ‘their’ particular group vis-a-vis the other groups.
  • Share the different ideas that are suggested and analyze them. What tactics and strategies did the different sub-groups use to try to convince the members of the group that they are addressing?
  • You can also follow this with an advertising campaign for a suggested program to bring the different groups of the community together in an attempt to increase their connection and lower the tension between them. This campaign can include artwork, songs and publicity materials. Of course, if you want to, you can make this into a real community activity and see if the group’s work is effective.




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10 Dec 2006 / 19 Kislev 5767 0