I was at the Siyum HaShas at MetLife Stadium, which I discussed in my column in the January 9, 2020, edition of the Queens Jewish Link. I was also at the rally on January 5 to protest rising anti-Semitism in the New York area. I probably was one of a small number of individuals who were at both events. My fellow columnist referred to this dichotomy as a tale of two cities (January 9 issue) and had a negative view of this situation.
I have a different view. Imagine if the 25,000 people who came out to the rally were chasidim from Brooklyn or Monsey, and the speakers were solely from these communities. The reaction would have been “so what”; that would have been expected, since these communities are getting the brunt of the attacks.
Instead, the speakers at the rally, with one or two exceptions, were not chasidic. Moreover, the vast majority of the crowd did not dress like chasidim or agree with them on issues relating to religion. There could have been many other reasons for the non-chasidim not to show up. It was cold and windy. They could have done what was said in the past: blame the chasidim for looking too Jewish.
What mattered to them was one thing: The chasidim are Jews just as they are. If one Jew is subject to an anti-Semitic attack, then it is an attack on all Jews. This is the greatest show of unity.
Everybody has a unique role. For some people it is being involved in Daf Yomi, and for others it is being politically active and protesting when something bad happens to the Jewish community.
Our forefather Jacob had twelve sons. In the Torah reading of Parshas VaY’chi last Shabbos, Jacob gave blessings to his sons. He did not give one blessing to all of them. Instead he gave each tribal son his own blessing (Shimon and Levi were combined). Jacob gave each tribe a separate blessing because he understood that every group or individual is different and has a unique role to play.
I was proud to be part of both significant events in our community. Both events feature our community in a positive light and show our unity.
The rally and Siyum HaShas may have happened in two states with few of the same individuals involved. However, this is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. Let our broad Jewish community, all in their own ways, work together to make this a better world for all our brethren in the Jewish community. May we not be forced to unify because of the negative actions of what others are doing to us, but because of the positive ways we treat each other.