Can All Israel Be Friends? by R. Yosef Kanefsky

A few years ago, on the last Shabbat of Tammuz, I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly moved during morning davening. Josh, our Mussaf leader that day, was reciting the blessing for the new moon, as the month of Av would be starting that week. For the short middle paragraph of the blessing, Josh chose the mournful melody of “Elli Zion” familiar to us from the Tisha B’av liturgy. And when we reached the words “all of Israel are friends”, a chill went down my spine. Usually this phrase is one of the most difficult and ironic phrases from our liturgy, given the sad and ongoing story of friction within our tribe. But intoned to the melody of “Elli Zion”, which evokes all of the darkest chapters of our history of the past thousands of years, the words rung startlingly true. We do all share the same stories. We have all walked the same tortured path. When it comes to all the things that we remember every Tisha B’av, all of Israel are indeed friends. Brothers, sisters, and comrades.

 Which makes Tisha B’av, strange as this might sound, a true gift for us. It is a special and unique annual opportunity for Jews to sit together, remember together, and even articulate aspirations for the future, together. My dear friend David challenged me a few weeks after Josh’s Mussaf, asking, “is there a way that we could observe Tisha B’av next year with a broader swath of the Jewish community? Isn’t that what the day is about?”

Those experiences, combined with the enthusiasm for the idea that came from my neighborhood colleagues, brought forth an extraordinary Tisha B’av observance that it is about to mark its third year. Our (Orthodox) shul, Temple Beth Am (Conservative), and IKAR (non-denominational) now spend the last 2+ hours of the day together in learning, and soulful Tisha B’av singing. Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, Rabbi Sharon Brous and I have formed a most wonderful partnership, creating the learning materials and implementing the program. The program takes place at Beth Am where Rabbi Kligfeld has, so magnificently, given the chevra from our shul a beautiful classroom where we set up a mechitza and have an Orthodox davening for Mincha and Ma’ariv, parallel to the minyanim taking place in the chapel down the stairs. And as we break fast together, the sense of family, of peoplehood, of possibility and optimism, the sense that all Israel are friends, is tangible and exhilarating.

I am sharing this with you not simply to praise my colleagues and their congregations (and my own), but to describe the possible. We’d each be happy to help you and your congregation create something similar to what, with God’s help, we’ve created here.

We need not wait for Mashiach to create this kind of meaningful Jewish friendship. Probably, Mashiach is waiting for us.

A meaningful fast to all.

4 Responses to Can All Israel Be Friends? by R. Yosef Kanefsky

  1. Mr. Cohen says:

    Orthodox Rabbis much much greater than Yosef Kanefsky have prohibited join events with Reform and Conservative synagogues.

    Even if it were not prohibited, why would any good Jew who believes in Torah want to unite with Reform and Conservative synagogues which reject the divine origin of the Torah and accept so-called “gay Rabbis” and accept so-called “lesbian Rabbis”?

    The answer to the question is: NO, all Jews cannot be friends.

    And if you don’t like that, then blame the Conservative synagogues for voting to accept so-called “gay Rabbis” and blame the Reform synagogues for voting to accept phoney Jewishness by patrilineal descent.

  2. Yosef Kanefsky says:

    Thank you Mr. Cohen. May God grant us each length of days to pursue our respective strategies for building a stronger and better Jewish people.

  3. Perhaps one can look at it this way. The purpose of Judaism is not to create “friendships”, “chaburos” or “intrafaith dialogue”. The purpose of Judaism is to develop a relationship with the Creator.
    And unlike secular liberalism which teaches moral relativity and “As long as you’re not bugging anyone else you’re great!”, Judaism teaches that the path to a relationship with God is through the observance of His laws and the study of His Torah. Therefore, to create a “friendship circle” with people who, l’hatchilah, reject the basic principles of Judaism from time immemorial like Matan Torah, the prohibition on Mishkav Zachar, etc., means that one is more interested in a relationship with one’s fellows than with God.
    Tell me, if the Reformatives decide that next year they’ll break the Tisha B’Av fast at the local Chinese restaurant (but out of sensitivity they’ll refrain from ordering the mushu pork) will you go with them? If they decide to create a Saturday afternoon movie event, will you go with them?
    It’s one thing to invite them into your shul and expect them to follow Orthodox custom for the afternoon but to bestow an equality on their non-Torah beliefs is quite wrong.
    One can be friends without accepting that one’s friend knows what he is doing.
    Have an easy fast.

  4. Mr. Cohen says:

    Most non-denominational Jewish congregations accept Reform “converts” and so-called “patrilineal Jews,” and are therefore Reform, whether they realize it or not.

    In other words, non-denominational Jewish congregations are really Reform congregations that do not realize that they are Reform.

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