From Rabbi Zeff in Israel: Migvan (Diversity)


Sunset in the Carmel forest
Rabbi Zeff is in Israel, helping his family set up for the year before he returns to the U.S. on Tuesday. He wrote this reflection.

“During this past week, one Hebrew word has been a constant refrain in my conversations with people here in Haifa: migvan, meaning ‘diversity’ or ‘variety.’ I heard it from Rabbi Dubi Hayun of the Masorti congregation Kehillat Moriah, when he was explaining how the congregation not only welcomes people from all walks of life but also celebrates multiple traditions of prayer and Torah chanting, from Iraqi to German to Yemenite, something uncommon in synagogues in Israel. I heard it from Osnat Gershon, the principal of my son’s high school, when she was describing the widely varying economic levels, religious orientations, ethnic origins, and academic goals of her students. And I saw it when we joined the wide variety of Israelis – Hasidic Jews, Orthodox Christians, Arabs, Druze, urban and rural, secular and religious – who like us have been enjoying the last few days of summer by visiting natural parks and attractions in the Galilee.”

“I also heard migvan on the radio and read about it in the newspapers after, thank God, the latest ceasefire took hold and the rocket fire and mortars from Gaza finally stopped. Immediately, different political commentators and politicians began to stake out their positions.  Parties to the right of the Prime Minister criticized him for not going far enough to eliminate Hamas.  Parties to the left criticized him for agreeing to terms that, in their view, could have been arrived at weeks ago without bloodshed.  Even leaders in his own party criticized him for, alternately, lack of decisiveness and making the wrong decisions.  A recent poll showed that 54% of Israelis believe that neither side won the most recent round of conflict.  The diversity of opinions – migvan de’ot – within Israeli society about this conflict and what should come next is truly amazing.”

“It is this diversity – this migvan – that characterizes much of Israeli life:  people of very different backgrounds, attitudes, opinions, practices, and goals, who somehow manage, however fractiously, to live together.  As we at GJC, like Jews in other communities in the U.S., grapple with our feelings and reactions to the very difficult events of this summer, I urge all of us to keep in mind the value of migvan, a value that has always been at the heart of our community.”

“This Shabbat we will be in Jerusalem at the Bar Mitzvah of Adam Bonn-Yavneh, grandson of GJC member Hannah Bonn (and son of my college friend Jessie Bonn).  May we always know joy and peace in year ahead.  L’shanah tovah!”