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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