Friday, April 11, 2014

The limits of my language are the limits of my world*

I’ve spent a significant amount of time in various partnership cities.

These are places where we help build strong relationships between North American Jewish Federation communities with a community in Israel, or Europe, or the former Soviet Union. There are layers and layers of relationship models – schools, JCCs, projects, programs, personal ties – that deepen each year. They enhance Jewish identity and connectivity for everyone involved.

The basic components of these partnerships are unique to the communities. At some point we’ll get some ideas together about the best practices – feel free to send me some ideas and I’ll start sharing them too. But two ideas keep coming back to me.

First, when we build partnerships in, for example, a Russian-speaking country, one of the best ways to deepen that connection Stateside is to have a Russian “ulpan” for the leadership. You don’t have to learn the language to fluency, but even a basic grasp of a few common words makes a huge impact on your audience and friends when you travel there.
Think about what happens when you go to a foreign country and you can say a few words of their language when you walk around. Same thing here.

Second, there’s a single common language that we share in our communities.
It’s Hebrew.
In practically every country I've ever visited in my work in the Joint, I've met with someone from the local leadership who speaks Hebrew. You name it, they speak Hebrew there.
If we want to deepen these partnerships – and strengthen the Jewish identity on both sides – learning Hebrew is one of the best, most effective and most powerful ways to do it.

And hamevin yevin.

*Ludwig Wittgenstein.

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