Talking openly about Israel will make us less polarized, not more

October 26, 2023

by Rabbi Amitai Fraiman (YCT ’16) for the Jewish News of Northern California

For the past nine years, the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto has proudly hosted the Z3 Conference, an annual event dedicated to exploring the dynamic relationship between diaspora Jews and Israel. The next one is set for Nov. 5.

However, as I write these words, it’s been just over two weeks since we witnessed the deadliest day for our people since the Holocaust. In the face of an impending larger-scale conflict and a substantial surge in global antisemitism and attacks targeting Jews, the notion of possessing a secure and thriving sovereign state and diaspora feels uncertain.

Images from Israel bear a haunting resemblance to historical accounts. Do we genuinely possess a resilient homeland and a flourishing diaspora? Have we truly reached a new chapter in the narrative of the Jewish people that enables us to elevate our communal identity?

To this, I respond with an unequivocal “yes.”

While each year has seen the Z3 conference evolve in its themes and focus, one unchanging principle remains: The Jewish people are at a pivotal moment in our history. Even with our current, unprecedented crisis, we have both a thriving sovereign homeland and a flourishing diaspora for the first time in our existence.

We champion the idea that open dialogue about Israel and engagement with Israelis will forge stronger communal bonds and minimize discord. Talking openly about Israel will make us less polarized, not more polarized.

In simpler terms, if we can come together for passionate conversations and constructive debates, we can overcome any challenge.

Much like our JCC gyms help build physical strength through consistent challenging exercises, ongoing robust conversations and debates with diverse ideas and individuals will fortify our communal resilience and sense of identity.

Z3 asserts that our extraordinary historical juncture empowers us to collectively enrich our personal and communal identities. We advocate for a fresh perspective: one that proudly embraces Jewish heritage and unwaveringly supports Zionism. This approach, we believe, will resonate with more and more individuals and communities, encouraging them to embrace these values and regard Israel and its diverse Jewish traditions as integral components of their identity.

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Screenshot from a CNN News broadcast with Rabbi Ari Hart who attended the funeral of a Muslim boy who had been killed. Image is split down the middle by a red line, on the right is a rabbi and on the left is presumably a CNN news host. At the bottom of the screen is the headline in large black letters on a white text box saying "HUNDREDS ATTEND VIGIL FOR 6-YR-OLD BOY KILLED IN ALLEGED ANTI-MUSLIM ATTACK." Above and curving around the left end of the text box is a red text box with white text saying "DEVELOPING STORY". On the right end of the white text box are the letter "CNN" in large red letters that connect to one another and have a white line running through them (the CNN logo) and below that is a red downward arrow that says "S&P" in black on the left and "56.70" on the right. Just above the white text box is a small red text box with white letters that say "LIVE". The text below the white text box is cut-off by the Youtube frame, a semi-transparent bar with a line going from the far left to the far right that is mostly red with some white at the end. Below the line is a white play button (right facing arrow), a skip button (same arrow but with a vertical line in front of it), a volume button (cartoon megaphone with a semicircle and a right facing arch coming out of it), a time stap that says "4:08/5:14" and then on the right side a transparent play button inside a white circle, a white box with transparent "CC" inside it (closed caption icon), a white gear (settings icon), a hollow white square with a solid white square in the bottom right, a hollow white square, a hollow white square with 3 curved white bars coming from the bottom left, and a 4 white right angles forming a roughly square shape (the full screen icon). The figure on the left appears to be a woman in her 30s to 40s with light tanish skin and facing the camera. She has shoulder length, straight, blonde hair that is parted on the side, dark eyes, prominent eye brows and is visible from the chest up. She is wearing a black coat, a black, white and grey-green floral top and earrings that might have small clear or whitish gem stone. Behind her is a cityscape with squat, pale colored apartments and the whole cityscape has a blue tint. On the right is Rabbi Ari Hart, he is a man who appears to be in his 30s to 40s, is directly facing the camera, and has pale beige skin. He has short, neat, dark hair and a full, short, and neat beard with connected mustache. He has brown eyes and is wearing dark, circular glasses that are tapered at the ends. He is also wearing a blue-grey suit and a white button down shirt with a glossy light blue tie. Behind him is an arrangement of sefarim filling most of 3 black, wooden book cases. The books come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes but most appear to be in Hebrew and tend to be grey, brown or black and many have gilded spines.CNN News - Rabbis Attend Funeral for Muslim Boy in Illinois
WIP Photograph of Rabbi Saul Strosberg speaking at a pro-Israel rally. Rabbi Strosberg is standing behind small podium which is made of black metal and has a banner in front of it. The banner is white with a blue stripe at the top and in the center is a picture of an American flag to the left connected to an Israeli flag to the right like a single slightly furled up ribbon. The white segments of the Israeli flag and the American flag at the opposite ends blur into the white background. Below the image are large blue words with each line getting progressively larger and thicker. The first line says "TENNESSEE" and underneath that "RALLY FOR" and finally below that "ISRAEL". Rabbi Strosberg has pale sandy toned skin and is facing slightly to the right. He appears to be in his 30s or 40s with very short brown hair and appears otherwise clean shaven. He is wearing a white button-down shirt, dark grey pants, a black belt, a blue lanyard with unreadable white text and black sunglasses.Rabbi Saul Strosberg (YCT '05) of Congregation Sherith Israel Nashville, speaks at downtown rally for Israel.