At the beginning of this year, you were a stranger; someone who lived far away in a place where our paths could not cross. Yet, this year we were able to travel to you and your home. We had the chance to learn and interact with your culture, your history, and your current struggles. We began to understand our commonalities and realized that your life is not as far away as it once seemed. Now we can begin to call you our “neighbor.” But what was the initial spark that brought us to this level of familiarity? Was it when we learned about Diaspora Jews living alongside Christian, Hindu, or Muslims neighbors like yourselves? Was it noticing that we shared common symbols such as the pomegranate or the Star of David? Or was it the chance to actually shake your hand, hear your story, or sing your songs? Maybe, it’s not important to pinpoint the exact catalyst that gave way to this close relationship, maybe the more pertinent question to ask is what is a “neighbor”?
For us, a “neighbor” is someone who you stop and wave to - maybe have a quick chat with - as you pull your car into the garage; it is a person who invites you into their home to talk over a cup of coffee; it is someone who you go to and ask to borrow sugar. You, neighbor, allowed us to reflect on ourselves - one’s surroundings serve as a point of reference to understand one’s self.
We are also reminded of the mantra “love your neighbor as yourself.” Where needed, we advocate for your well-being and celebrate your successes. So neighbor, while we don’t live on the same physical street, we live close in spirit. Thank you for opening your door and inviting us to cultivate this wonderful bond with you.