In the tragic crush in Meron last week, which claimed the lives of 45 people in Israel’s largest civilian disaster in history, the Jewish people were thrust into a deep mourning in a single horrific instant. We were glued to the news coming in, devastated, and praying that the human toll be mitigated.
We entered Shabbos with the heaviest of hearts. We spent Shabbos strengthening each other and our families as [with Shabbos’s limitations] that’s all we had. No answers. No culprit that can be pointed to, to take out our anger, like in mass casualty crimes. Just devastating, inexplicable loss.
On Saturday night I resumed mining the media, hoping for help in making sense of it all. Hoping to find comfort of sorts. Rummaging through the social media posts, it didn’t dawn upon me immediately that the grief was sectarian, relegated to the Orthodox community.
I ventured into the videos that were posted onto Youtube about the tragedy. One of the videos that came up was a non-orthodox Shabbos service from the previous night (Friday evening). I watched it (albeit in high speed with the user-friendly forward option) hoping to gain some comfort from the solidarity of our brethren in the more secular Jewish movements. It was with shock that I concluded viewing the service with not a word uttered about the tragic events in Meron. All business as usual. Certain it was an outlier service, I viewed a video from another congregation. No luck. And then a third….
I was stunned. I had not the heart nor the time to view any more. The apathy and indifference was deeply searing. Curious to see the written word, I turned to the Reform Movement’s website. Nothing. Then to the Conservative Judaism’s website. Also nothing about the tragedy.
In a hunt in this sea of silence, I did succeed in finding some formal communal letters and casual tweets acknowledging this calamity. However, the overwhelming silence spoke louder than words. It felt even more profound than apathy. It felt like a visceral derision of the Chareidi community. As if to say, this happened to the Chareidim, we have nothing to do with them. Not my people, not my business, not my tragedy.
I hate to compare and contrast tragedy… but, in Pittsburgh, the overwhelming response in the Orthodox world was one of shared pain. Very appropriately so.
The lack of leadership by the Reform and Conservative Rabbinate truly saddened me. I know our differences are many. But even Israel’s hostile neighbors seemed to offer us more consolation. The tradition is that even active enemies set aside differences when there are disasters. But the pain of indifference coming from fellow members of Am Yisroel, amidst our deepest sorrow, came as a shock to me. Is the chasm from one Jew to another too wide to bridge? I was sure that if anything could unite us, it would be in tragedy. Tragedy would certainly serve as a catalyst of unity. Of transcending our differences.
These words are shared with a heavy heart. And prayers for a brighter and more tolerant tomorrow.
Max Gordon – New York
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