Why we must be for one another

Photo: Vadim Daniel

Photo: Vadim Daniel

By Andrés Spokoiny, Chief Executive Officer, Federation CJA

Despite suffering the most unspeakable tragedies ever to befall a people, Jews have shared a set of imperishable values of human dignity, freedom and compassion with the world. How did we rise up from the ashes time and again to live a life of vibrancy and commitment, while contributing to the improvement of the entire human race?  How could we, right after the unspeakable trauma of the Holocaust, create the state of Israel? How could we, even after having a third of our people – and brain power – exterminated, account for 20% of all Nobel Prize winners?

I always wonder what explains this resilience that defies reason, this survival against all odds. The more I think of it, the more I can trace this down to one particular phrase: Kol Israel arevim ze laze. All Jews are responsible for one another. If we could overcome all the challenges that history has thrown at us, it is because of the unwavering solidarity that binds us together. The capacity to be there “for one another” is what makes us the unique people we are. In fact, it is what makes us a people. While others focused on building massive works of brick and mortar, Jews were building communities. Communities based on the idea of “for one another.” This idea is what ensures that nobody is left behind and that we can fight, together, insurmountable odds. Thanks to this capacity to be there for one another, we have refused to be victims of circumstances; to become, instead, agents of hope.

Federation CJA is the embodiment of this eternal idea. We are there, for one another. And this simple phrase has been our rock and our call to action for over 90 years. For one another when new immigrants arrived in Montreal with nothing but dreams and fears. For one another when the Great Depression struck and there was nobody else to turn to for support. For one another when Holocaust survivors needed a loving embrace and the possibility of a new beginning. For one another when Israel was fighting for its survival. For one another when Jews were struggling for their freedom in the Soviet Union. For one another when suicide bombings and international delegitimization threaten Israel and each one of us. For one another when we need the strength, the creativity and the energy to build a vibrant Jewish future in Montreal, and around the world.

For one another means that I feel the pain and the anguish of a fellow Jew, that their tears run down my cheeks. It means that their dreams and hopes are mine, as well. The concept of “for one another” means that none of us will ever be alone.

The idea of being there “for one another” does not disconnect Jews from the rest of the world. Rather the opposite, by developing the concept of mutual responsibility we extend this core idea to the rest of the world. Jews were the first to believe that all human beings are tied together in a network wherein what happens to one happens to all.

The idea of “for one another” is so ingrained in who we are that sometimes we take it for granted. Yet, it is an idea that needs work, it demands action. “For one another” is not something that ‘happens,’ it is an idea painstakingly built over millennia. It is something that we do day after day, and year after year.

To be there for one another is what allows us to transform tragedy into promise, fear into hope and distress into joy. In a world of individualism, the Jewish people stand to uphold this idea. In the hour of need, in the hour of hope, for our dreams and for our future, let’s always be there, for one another.

Visit Comunity in Motion, the blog of Andrés Spokoiny.