Learning Community from Motorcycle Riders
I have been an avid motorcyclist for the past several years. There are few things more exhilarating than "Getting into the wind" on a smooth stretch of road. The merger of the wind, the sound of the bike, and the connection to the environment make it a surprisingly tranquil experience. Despite the obvious sensory enjoyment, one of the best parts of riding a motorcycle actually has little to do with how, when, or what one rides.
Motorcyclists are a community united behind a shared passion for riding. The minute a rider straddles a machine and gets underway, they've joined a community that is built on one criteria - mutual respect. The next time you see two motorcycles passing in the opposite direction, watch what happens. Both riders, if they have manners, will wave or gesture to the other rider with their left hand to acknowledge an unspoken bond shared by all riders. They may be riding different motorcycles, wearing different clothes, and are most likely not from the same part of town. None of those criteria matter, because they are connected by the most basic principle - they are both riders. That’s all that is needed to be acknowledged as a member of the riding community.
The benchmarks for inclusion into the community of motorcyclists prompted me to ask similar questions about the Jewish community. Do we as a community have the same simple threshold? Is simply identifying as members of the same community - the Jewish community - enough to warrant acknowledgement and inclusion from our fellow Jews? It's a question that I don't like to ask for fear of the honest answer.
The fact is that if we claim to be concerned about the growth and sustainability of our community we must ensure that there is a place for everyone to participate in that community. We must also dispel the myth that involvement in the community is based on income, level of philanthropy, marital status, age or ritual observance. No one who desires to be a part of our Jewish community should feel or be told that their involvement isn't wanted or needed. Additionally, while we mull over strategies and definitions for inclusion, the enemies of the Jewish people have expedited their process. We – Jews - have been and are persecuted and killed not for being a certain type of Jew or leading a certain type of lifestyle. We – Jews - are under attack around the world simply because we are. If those who wish to end our existence can have such a simple measure, should we not have the same for ensuring our future? To be clear, I’m speaking about community with a capital C. I am not asking anyone to step out of the tenants of their personal level of observance or change individual customs. I am however advocating for a communal environment that is welcoming to all who wish to count themselves among the Jewish community.
We are fortunate to have a very diverse Jewish community as many of us are not natives of Southern Nevada. We have come from different parts of the country and world, grown up with different levels of ritual observance, different lifestyles, and different customs. Despite these differences, we have one common thread, we are members of the Jewish community. Therefore, as we begin 2016, I would ask that we emulate my fellow motorcyclists by making the threshold for acknowledgment and inclusion as simple as choosing to participate.
I wish you and your families much success, happiness and peace in 2016 and as we motorcyclists like to say, "Keep the shiny side up!"
As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.