I won't only be mourning for Jerusalem this Tisha B’Av

The fabric of Jewish society had been destroyed long before Hadrian started the march to destroy Jerusalem. Are we any different? Op-ed.

Joshua Goldstein ,

Tisha B'av prayers at the Western Wall
Tisha B'av prayers at the Western Wall
Photo: TPS

On Tisha B'Av we remember the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the exiles and the calamities that Jews have suffered as a nation throughout the ages. However sincere we are in fasting and in mourning about our past tragedies, we are failing to see the destruction of our people today, in this wildly unstable and chaotic time in history.

In ancient Jewish sources the cause of the Second Temple's destruction is attributed to the baseless hatred that Jews at that time had towards one another. Taking a quick self-assessment of our nation today can we grade ourselves by continuing, if not surpassed, the hatred of our ancestors of the Temple era? Can we honestly say that we have bettered our relationship between the different sectors in our community? If Jeremiah, the prophet Yirmiyahu, were alive today he would most certainly be "booed" out of our congregations, and barred from Yeshivot, if he were to dare to criticize us on our hatred towards one another.

As anti-Semitism increases and Jews are stabbed in their homes, gunned down in synagogues, and sucker-punched in the streets, we realize that we are way behind in where we, as a people, should be. In the vacuum of a larger community, we cannot hope to contain or even thwart the waves of violent Jew-hatred pounding the shores of our Jewish communities.

Where are the defiant rallies? Where is the communal, economic, and social support for victims of ant-Jewish hate crimes? We are not organized (except for once several months ago in NY) because our hatreds prevent us from uniting in both the bad and the good times. Our self-assessment would show that we are not progressing towards accepting one another nor finding common ground to work and coordinate as a larger community.

Jews take up many social causes: immigration, egalitarianism, “Two State Solution,” and Black Lives Matter. Many of us support these causes with intense passion. We are for every cause, but it seems that the last cause we will ever get behind is our own! What happened to Jewish lives – don’t they “matter?” We cannot hide behind endless condemning statements and resolutions against anti-Semitism. We require action and community. We need to be there for each other. We need to stop being against one another.

Will you challenge your negative beliefs about other Jews? Can you reach out to a different type of Jew with love?
Regardless of religious observance, community, or color, Jews need to be present for other Jews. Let us finally air the biases and reconcile our inherent intolerance towards one another. This step would be the final step in healing our fractured nation.

Jews make it a business of defining themselves by what they are not. Isn't it time we start redefining ourselves in the context of unity? Can we stop having "inter-faith" Passover Seders and start having "intra-faith" Seders? We need to find outlets for stressing our commonalities. We most certainly must stop spewing out hatred against what other Jews are not. We may feel divided on how Israel conducts its business, but we need to be even more concerned with the state of Jewish relations in the Diaspora.

I know that for many, these words will fall on deaf ears. But Jew-hatred arises as a direct result of, and increases in direct proportion to, the level of internal conflict. Anti-Semitism is directly linked to our failures as a nation to unite the “streams.” When a religious Jew gets hit, we all think, “At least it wasn't one of us!”

Attackers don't stop to qualify who is more religious and who is more secular. Soon all Jews will be hit…and, G-d forbid, worse. When one Jew gets hit, doesn't it affect us all? We can only change when we can swallow our internal pride and let go of our egos, which choke all efforts at uniting us.

Josephus, the historian from antiquity, in his writings on the destruction of the Second Temple, wrote about the bandits and the gang leaders terrorizing Jerusalem during the Roman siege. Three factions of gangs held their turf within Jerusalem and held the people in the city hostage. He describes the infighting, the burning of food in storage, and the terrorizing of the simple people who were caught in the middle. The consequences of starvation, death, and enslavement, were the only options open because of the disunity. The fabric of Jewish society had been destroyed long before Hadrian started the long march to destroy Jerusalem.

Will you challenge your negative beliefs about other Jews? Can you reach out to a different type of Jew with love? Can you reduce your personal animus towards them? Let go of your pride because it is costing us our future as a nation. Can you stop blaming “those Jews” for whatever situation is going on and reach out to a Jew you never knew?

On this Tisha B'Av, I won’t be mourning only for Jerusalem's destruction. I will also mourn for the lack of unity that continues to separate us. What was lost in Jerusalem is a loss in the past. What we are losing now is even more lamentable because it threatens our future. Our nation, our Am, is very dysfunctional and it desperately needs healing. This healing can be found within each one of us. Let's make this Tisha B'Av, an Av of unity. Let this Tisha B'Av be an Av of national love.

As it says in Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, on the power of love, "Let me as a seal upon your heart, for love is (as) strong as death."

Joshua Goldstein is chairman of Herut North America. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education and is dedicated to the ideals of pre-World War II Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Joshua will be a delegate to the 38th World Zionist Congress for Herut. Herut’s website is https://herutna.org/