The anger and incivility that characterizes our national discussions of late — on health care, presidential power and a host of other tender topics — is a troubling sign of a fraying social compact. The fabric that binds together the Jewish community is also fraying, as poll numbers show a widening gap between the attitudes of Americans Jews and their Israeli counterparts, and anecdotal evidence confirms a worrying disconnect. Jay Michaelson’s provocative, stirring piece in last week’s Forward, “How I’m Losing My Love for Israel,” was the most-read article on our Web site this past week.
But at least Michaelson had the courage to broach the subject. In many circles, Israel is the topic Jews won’t talk about. A story we heard around the holiday table made this point poignantly: One ongoing Hebrew conversation group recently decided that Israel is the one topic too fraught to discuss.
This calendric moment of reflection and repentance is the right time to focus on the way Jews disregard, delegitimize or even demonize other Jews for expressing heartfelt but challenging opinions. We’re an argumentative people; this is nothing new. But as in the coarse turn of American discourse, our differences are now exaggerated by a lightning-fast culture that amplifies disagreement and makes the search for common ground more elusive. Angry silence only worsens the wound.
So we respectfully suggest an addition to the communal confession of sins known as the Al Chet. The long list recited repeatedly on Yom Kippur only obliquely references this issue, when we ask forgiveness for the sins committed by evil talk, passing judgment, causeless hatred, wronging a neighbor. But something is missing.
We need to ask forgiveness for the sin which we have committed before You in forgetting that we are One People.
All of us. We at the Forward also ask your forgiveness to anyone we have wronged or offended in the last year.
G’mar chatima tova.