[originally published in the May-June 2023 Templet, by Rabbi Joshua Stanton]

The Torah implores us not only to “Love your neighbor,” but also “not to hate your brother” (Leviticus 19:17). One of our great commentators, Abraham Ibn Ezra, suggests that loving one’s neighbor and hating one’s brother are diametrically opposed.

Yet when watching from afar the struggles over power, legitimacy, and democracy in the State of Israel,
one cannot but see (or at least infer) genuine internecine strife. Questions of institutional norms have become social flashpoints and generated distrust and disdain of a sort that can engender genuine hate.

Still more worrisome, we can observe an emergence of what sages termed “senseless hatred” or “wanton hatred” – of the sort that they suggest may have brought about the destruction of the Second Temple (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yoma 9b). When intra-Jewish hate boils over, it does so with an intensity that makes it difficult to bring factions back together again. We see this with the political extremes in Israel, which have begun using rhetoric and even engaging in a violence that overlooks the humanity of
fellow Israelis and fellow Jews.

So what are we to do – watching in stunned fear from our perch in the American Diaspora? First, we should strengthen our Diaspora. For too long, we have leaned on Israel for Jewish education, identity
formation, and purpose. We must retain our close ties without creating a relationship of dependency.

Second, we should invest in Jewish pluralism. This means membership in the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) and investing in the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ). It means building relationships with pluralistic centers of Jewish learning in America like Hadar and CLAL in Manhattan.

Third, we must not give up hope or turn our back on our brethren in Israel when they need us the most. This means visiting Israel, calling its New York consulate to reaffirm our support of Israel’s democratic norms, and learning about Israel’s history and culture.

We are beyond blessed to be living in an era in which Jews have a homeland to call their own. We must treasure it, protect it, and do everything possible to ensure that fellow Jews do not come to blows.