Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Memphis, Be Proud!

Last night's Erev Limud, run by the Torah MiTzion Kollel, was an event in which every Jewish Memphian should take pride. It is most unfortunate that the Orthodox communities throughout the country and throughout the globe capable of successfully bringing all of their shul rabbis together to offer divrei torah in a single program - with the same deference and respect shown to all - are far and few between. If the program was run under the auspices of an overtly Zionist organization, such as Torah MiTzion, that number would dwindle even further.

In Memphis, though, the concept has been embraced. Men, women, and children spanning three generations packed our Boys High School Beis Medrash to learn through sources selected by each of our shul rabbanim and our Rosh Kollel and then to listen to each of them present an eight minute message focused on teshuvah and Yom Kippur.

For me, this program served to relieve a sense of cognitive dissonance which I had experienced from my very first visit to Memphis, not too long ago. It was then that I was first struck by the seeming incongruence between the Memphis Orthodox community about which I had been warned - one fractured by political strife and disunity - and the Memphis Orthodox community that I saw - one that was diverse and divergent on certain issues yet inspiringly cohesive and uniquely unified on so many others. Last night I was convinced that the naysayers were wrong.

There may indeed have been a day in which Memphis was far from the model of communal cohesion, but, as last night's program testified, that day has passed. Today we deserve to hold our heads high and show communities throughout the country that no matter what we wear on our head, no matter what color our shirt, no matter what nusach we daven, no matter what our political views, and no matter whether we have been traveling the path toward religious and ethical perfection for quite some time or we have just now begun, we can all come together to learn and to grow. United by a commitment to Torah and mitzvos and armed with the understanding that within the contours of halachah there is room for multiple views and multiple perspectives, we can come together to learn with each other and we can come together to learn from each other.

We can. And, if want to ensure a strong and vibrant future for Orthodoxy, we must.

Memphis, be proud and be strong in protecting this vital element of our community. Tell other communities about it and soon we might just see them following our lead.

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