This month, our community will gather for a workshop entitled How the “Other” Saved the Jews. We will be exploring the long list of non-Hebrews and, later, non-Jews, whose selfless acts ensured the survival of the Jewish people. From women asserting themselves in a patriarchal society to those from varying and, oftentimes, conflicting faith traditions, to those who dressed differently, ate differently, spoke differently and looked differently from the Jews they befriended and helped, to those who rebelled against the rule of the day, these “others” have shown us time and time again that there truly is no “other.” We are all together in this thing we call life.
It is so easy to blame problems on those we don’t see when we look in the mirror, but how often do we look closely enough to see our similarities - let alone the fact that a “sworn enemy” may have saved our lives and the lives of those we love.
When two of the midwives attending Hebrew births in the days of Pharaoh refused to kill baby Moses and other Hebrew newborns, that was only the beginning. There have been countless individuals who have chosen to ignore the commands of tyrants while choosing to live justly, compassionately and morally - in spite of the risks they were taking with their own lives. And these are the people so many of us label as “the other.”
In the Pirkei Avot, Ben Zoma asks, “Who is wise?” and answers, “One who learns from all people.” Quite often, we do so much more than solely learn from those we consider “the other.”