Saturday, August 9, 2014

Achdus 2.0- My attempt to get real with achdut

It is difficult to admit that I have not been honest with myself. For a long time, I have spoken about achdus/achdut, Jewish unity. I have written about it, made efforts to pursue it and thought I was really living it, despite occasional objections from friends. When I read the op-ed by Rabbi Zev Shendalov, about his being menachem avel (making a shiva-call) to the Walles family, after the murder of Avraham Walles z”l H’YD by a terrorist, I realized I’d been lying to myself. I finally came to realize that my efforts at creating unity, and connecting with those from other worlds, only went in one direction. I was comfortable speaking at a Reform Temple, being part of a non-halachic (pre-Shabbos) Kabbalat Shabbat, and attending a non-denominational Beit Midrash, but I made no effort to connect with the charedi (yeshiva and chassidish) world.

As I thought about the Walles family, I was filled with shame. When Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Sheer z”l H’YD were murdered, I was devastated. I attended Eyal’s funeral, and was menachem avel at the Fraenkel home. These were my people. They lived in communities with which I identified, came from the “right” camp and lived in places where I could imagine living. I felt a visceral need to connect and offer at least some comfort.

When Avraham Walles was murdered, I felt sad, but had no thought of being menachem avel. After all, he was a Toldos Ahron chossid. Toldos Ahron are strongly anti-Zionist, and insular, even by the standards of Meah Shearim. Like Shendalov, I had very rarely been off the main street of that charedi neighborhood. Walles was different from me and had an approach to Judaism that made me very uncomfortable. More to the point, it’s not just Toldos Ahron that makes me uncomfortable. The charedi world with which I once felt a stronger connection, no longer speaks to me. More than that, some its values and approaches bother me greatly.

Shendalov’s op-ed hit me like a ton of bricks. I recognized that my disconnect from the charedi world had crossed from disagreement to something far more insidious. I realized how I had ignored the very real connection that Walles, his family and I, share. We are Jews. Period. Avraham was killed in an act of terror. End of story. A true attempt at achdut needs to go in both directions.

On Friday, I started to make things right. I left Rechov Meah Shearim, and went to the Walles home. I gave a small donation to help the orphans and widow, and sat with Walles’ father and brothers. I felt like crying. Just as I was pained when I heard Eyal Yifrach’s father sing “Tefillah L’Ani” at the funeral, and was filled with sadness when I met the Fraenkels, the thought of a father (and mother)  losing a son devastated me.

I don’t know whether my visit and meager words gave the Walles family any comfort. I know that I have finally begun to take achdus seriously. Friday was just the beginning.


  1. I am truly humbled by your words. Thank you and it is wonderful that you went to the the family. May Hashem bless you and may your visit provide for them some amount of nechama.

    1. Thank you. I look forward to meeting you in person one day.