Sometimes, it’s still hard for me to believe how little – even with our penchant for schmoozing, commentary and over-analysis – we Jews really talk to each other.
Yesterday, my wife told me something I found difficult to grasp. She was driving our 8-year-old son to Hebrew school, at Chizuk Amuno Synagogue, when she found that the beltway exit to Stevenson Road was blocked off by Baltimore County Police officers. Determined (probably to my kid’s dismay), she drove around to the Reisterstown Road exit and tried to gain access to Chizuk via Brooks Robinson Drive (that’s Radio Tower Drive for all you old-timers and third baseman haters.)
But she was still roadblocked by the cops and forced to walk from Brooks Robinson Drive to the shul. Not a far walk, mind you, but naturally when you see a bunch of cops stopping you from getting to a synagogue, you get a little nervous.
Middle East terrorists? White surpremacists? Sisterhood insurgents?
Fortunately, she was soon alerted that it was because of the “Mitzvah Miles Walk/Run” to support Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School’s Yad b’Yad Fund, which was wending through the neighborhoods around Chizuk and Beth Tfiloh Synagogue, which are maybe a half-mile apart.
The cops, it appears, forgot to tell Chizuk officials about the run, thus inconveniencing religious school parents, students and others trying to get to the synagogue that morning, not to mention residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. That’s pretty bad but look, mistakes happen.
But before we get too critical of Baltimore County’s finest – I’m certain Chizuk’s leadership contacted them about this matter, and it won’t happen again – a question begs to be asked: why didn’t someone at Beth Tfiloh simply contact Chizuk about the run? I admit I don’t know all the inside facts here, and that there are bigger problems in the universe. But did they just assume the cops would take care of it with Chizuk? Why didn’t information somehow filter over the months between these two mega-synagogues at some point?
Believe me, I’m not trying to take sides. Like I said, mistakes happen. But I think the episode points to a larger problem in the Jewish community and its mindset and ethos.
Yes, I’m kvetching again. But let’s face it: often, no one seems to really talk to each other – organizationally, institutionally – because everyone only worries about their own turf. We have all these fiefdoms and self concerns, and that’s all that seems to matter. It’s like if I didn’t care about Pennsylvania because I live in Maryland and only cared about Maryland – basically, I’m so patriotic about my own state I forgot that I’m an American.
We’ve all seen examples of this myopia. When I used to send my daughter to Beth El’s preschool and then switched to another shul’s, a good friend who attends Beth El half-jokingly called me “a traitor and a turncoat.” A traitor and turncoat because I switched synagogue preschools?
And at the Jewish Times, we hear often from rabbis, “You only cover their shul but not ours,” as if we have a vendetta against their synagogue. And then, when we do cover their shul, we hear zilcho.
People tell me all the time that this shul or that Jewish organization won’t participate in a particular event or endeavor because they didn’t plan it, or because another group is involved. It gets pretty petty. And more importantly, it turns people off and leads to unaffiliation and disgust with the community (and the Jewish people) in general. And that’s quite dangerous for a community’s future.
So religious outfits don’t talk, even when it’s for something as simple as logistics for an event passing through a neighborhood? Aren’t we all Jews? Don’t we have a common concern and a general interest in each other’s well-being? It all sounds pretty silly to me. It sounds like winning the battle but losing the war.