In times of challenge and conflict, we must stand together

Dear JCA Community,

For many years, Southern Maine has been a place where Jews of disparate political, cultural, and social backgrounds have come together to work collaboratively, transcending our differences and welcoming unique voices and perspectives. As times and expectations have changed, communal institutions weathered those changes with heart and commitment – sometimes inelegantly, but always in the service of building, stewarding, and supporting our community.

The massacres of October 7th introduced brutality and terror to the Jewish community that we had not experienced since the Holocaust. In the days and months that followed, the sense of existential fear – for individual Israelis, our own friends and family members – was palpable, and for many, connected to traumas experienced by Jews throughout our history.

Yet our tradition has always contained strong particular ethical commitments that focus on our own community and its needs and responsibilities. At the same time, we are called to be of service to all, through universal commitments to help those in need, support those who are marginalized, and bring healing, peace, and justice to the entire world.

Over the last four months, our hearts have broken not only for the incredible harm caused by Hamas to Israelis, but also for the horrors of the war in Gaza. Rabbis and organizational leaders have been at the forefront of supporting continued relationship building between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, both in Israel and in places like Maine. Our community has raised funds for humanitarian support of Israeli Arab and Bedouin communities as well as to help Jewish Israelis, and we have worked to maintain relationships across deep divisions and disagreement. We know that nobody in our community is responsible for military decision making, that all of us want peace more than ever, and that above all we share with our Muslim neighbors both the pain of this time and the incredible fear that these horrors may extinguish our hope for a different and better future.

The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the most complex and challenging of the modern era. It does not follow any of our well-worn American political narratives, and cannot be analogized to other historical conflicts, because it is fundamentally unique. We all have different theories about what should or could be done, and what should or could be possible. But if we knew how to solve the conflict, how to repair our world, Jewish institutions and leaders would do so. Because we don’t, we offer what we can:  a diverse, caring, confused, committed, fractious, loving, and engaged Jewish mishpacha – where nobody is alone or left behind, no question is off limits, and disagreement is an art form. Being part of a Jewish community has always been messy and challenging, not neat and comfortable. If you want support, solace, and connection in the Jewish community, it is always available to you — but the point is not to agree. The point is to participate.

Shabbat Shalom,

Molly Curren Rowles

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