How to Welcome Unity into Your Home, Community, and Life: A Conversation with Adrienne Gold Davis
Want to know the secret ingredient of a Momentum Trip — the reason why women unabashedly dance their hearts out, eagerly take in the beauty of their surroundings, and excitedly share their reflections late into the night?
One word: unity.
During our Momentum Trips, we connected with Jewish women from all over the world, and discovered that understanding our sisters’ points of view enriched our own. And it felt so good.
Why did we feel such unity in Israel, and how do we welcome that same incredible feeling into our lives back home? Adrienne Gold, an employee of JWRP Israel, shares her wisdom — explaining the true meaning of unity, why it’s a Jewish value, and how we can recreate that fantastic feeling every single day.
First of all, what IS unity?
Well, let's discuss what it is not! Unity is not uniformity! Rather, unity is a collective and common mission, vision and purpose with all parties playing different roles according to their “way.” At the root of Jewish unity is mutual respect and the understanding that we are one family with one huge heart.
Why is unity a Jewish value?
"Love your neighbor as yourself," "What is hateful to you do not do unto others," "Judge favourably" are all important laws in Judaism. Positive interpersonal relationships are critical to fulfilling our purpose as Jews — creating peace through ethical monotheism and being a light among the nations. We can't illuminate the world if we are busy trying to dim our fellows’ light!
So many of us experienced an incredible feeling of unity on our Momentum Trips. Why is that?
Because we focused on what connects us rather than what separates us. Because a culture of respect was demanded through judging favourably and speaking respectfully. Because Jewish women have always understood '”the big picture.”
When the Hebrew slaves escaped Egypt, they left so quickly that there was no time for the bread to rise, so they ate unleavened matzah. And yet, the women carried tambourines that they had prepared in their homes in order to make music when they were finally free. How could this be? Even in the worst of times, Jewish women prepare for victory, and get ready to sing songs of joy. And, in the best of times, when we have our cute Trip Leaders taking care of all of our needs, and when we are learning and laughing and shopping and touring and crying together, we experience unity and joy!
Now that we’ve returned from our Momentum Trips, what could Jewish unity look like for each of us?
Well, it could look a lot like my Shabbat table. There would be a vegan sitting beside someone who only eats meat and potatoes. A woman wearing a wig sitting beside a guy with piercings and tattoos. A lefty sitting beside someone so far to the right, she is practically tipping to one side! And, despite their differences, they would treat each other with respect and love, while searching for commonality and discussing that which unites them rather than what divides them.
Of course, it also helps that my food is delicious. And that there’s always lots of wine!
Sometimes, arguments come up. Is there a Jewish way to argue?
Well, you know what they say — two Jews, three opinions! So naturally our sages teach us how to argue properly!
The great sages of the Talmud, Hillel and Shammai, often disagreed about the meanings and application of our texts. When Hillel was in dispute, he would always reiterate the position of his opponent perfectly, offering proof that he heard them and understood their opinions thoroughly. Only then would he state his position, which was one that took into account the other’s point of view — which made his argument stronger. Because of his strategy, he often won the argument!
So, the Jewish way to argue is to first listen carefully to the other position and then to effectively restate it so that the other person feels heard and validated.
How can we encourage unity in the home?
To begin with, home must be a safe space where love is given unconditionally and parents see their children as souls with their own journeys. And while it is the parents’ job to inculcate values into their kids, they should consider the following points in order to do so respectfully:
a) Steer clear of labels
Saying things like, "she's the quick tempered one,” “he's the genius,” or “she's the creative one" restricts children, creates competitiveness, and often leads to self-fulfilling prophecies. Create space for your children’s evolution. No one remains static, and life can and does change us.
b) Don't “take a picture” of someone at their worst
Just like you delete bad photos of yourself or attempt to present yourself in the best possible light, do the same for those around you. This is truly what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.
c) Write a family mission statement
Treat your family as a team, where everyone has a different position naturally, but also has a clear definition of what it means to score. If the family has a clear mission statement, then everyone knows where the goal posts are, and can score through their own style and strengths.
d) Accept that everyone has different needs
There’s no need to give the same to each child. Everyone will have his or her turn. Sometimes, one child may seem to get more than the other, but in the end, it all works out.
e) Take the Hillel challenge
Before stating your own opinion, first listen to another position with enough concentration so that you can truly articulate it. This assures that your family members feel heard and respected.
Can you think of a time when the Jewish community truly united over a cause?
One of the most exquisite but painful periods for our people happened in the summer of 2014, when three boys, Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah were kidnapped in Israel. During the days when they were missing, all factions of Israeli society and Jews all over the world united in prayer, good deeds, love, and political advocacy in an attempt to have the boys returned home safely. While in the end, the boys were tragically not returned home, it was a time of tremendous power for the Jewish people. May we reach that height in times of good as well as in times of pain!
Interested in learning more about Jewish unity? Explore Chapter Three of Momentum’s Year of Growth for inspiring stories and practical exercises.