The parents of the bar mitzvah were of Moroccan-Tunisian decent and define themselves as “shomer Torah and mitzvot”—which neatly avoids all the other labels (chareidi, chareidi-dati leumi, religious Zionist, traditional, etc.) and all the philosophical implications inherent in those labels.
It was a spacious hall and there was a mechitzah (partition separating men and women) with plenty of room for dining and dancing on both sides.
To get to the men’s side, you needed to cross through the women’s side and there was a very wide aisle between two rows of tables to facilitate this.
Due to the parents’ families and the connections they’ve made in Tiveria, the guest comprised a wide swathe of the religious spectrum.
You had secular Jews who looked extremely secular (including one woman who was dressed as if she might be auditioning for a Vegas show at any second), secular-looking traditional Jews who went out of their way to dress appropriately for religious simchas, and Orthodox Jews ranging from nominally Orthodox to I-Just-Stepped-Out-of-Mea-Shearim Orthodox (with the men wearing their black pants tucked into white socks just under the knee and the women in the oval-shaped turbans colloquially known as "avocados").
And everyone got along!
Everyone seemed happy to see each other and was generally in a good mood.
And this kind of thing isn’t newsworthy.
You know why?
Because this is how things usually play out.
Everyone is normal and friendly, despite external differences.
No one threw rocks or bleach.
No one protested religious coercion.
Everyone davened the Evening Prayer Service together.
Everyone said “Amen” together at the Chanukah candle-lighting.
One of the Mea Shearim-looking ladies came over to the bar mitzvah boy’s grandmother and gushed about how the bar mitzvah boy’s father was so committed to learning b’chevruta with her husband every single day.
“Every day!” she enthused. “I’m not exaggerating! Your son-in-law has amazing dedication! And my husband just loves learning with him!”
Yet if you read newspapers and blogs, you would think it is impossible for a Yiddish-speaking chassid and a Moroccan-Tunisian baal teshuvah lawyer to spend so much quality time together and enjoy it.
You'd think that the chassidish woman would sit off at the side feeling quietly superior rather than going over to the Moroccan grandmother to connect and activate positive feelings among family members.
The bar mitzvah boy’s classmates also reflected unity across the lines.
With all the uproars about discrimination in some religious schools, people overlook the schools that are chareidi-run yet accept everybody.
These schools feel beholden to do so because if they don’t, those children may not receive a proper Torah education.
So some of the bar mitzvah classmates wore black suits and black hats. Some wore colored suits with knit kippahs.
Some wore button-down shirts with nice pants and knit kippahs.
And some wore football shirts with jeans and a kippah balanced over a short Mohawk (these are usually kids from either secular or freshly frum families whose parents were convinced to ensure their children received a solid religious education).
And these boys all got along; no one was snickering behind his hand or making fun from either side of the religious fence. In fact, they all seemed like really good friends.
I’ve seen this kind of thing all the time.
The sinat chinam and incitement are not coming from the average Jew.
Most Jews want to get along. Most Jews want to like each other.
And that’s all I wanted to say.
Part I|Part 2