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I am who I am

Recently in December I was at a demonstration against an infamous event for right-wing extremist views and attitudes. It was important to me to fill the space in our city a little more with solidarity, respect and shared values. Unfortunately I didn't succeed. While I was standing there in the cold with many other activists, I had to watch myself shouting slogans and disturbing the other side with noise. Suddenly there was no real difference between me and the people who, in my opinion, overlooked the essentials. The sign was different: plus instead of minus or left instead of right, below instead of above, colorful instead of brown. But the means were the same. Once I was on the trail of such thoughts, I also realized that we (including me) do not represent a real, visible common position. Of course we were there to protect democracy (i.e. the people as sovereign, not the majority or the louder, richer, smarter or dumber) and to stand up for general human rights, the rule of law and our non-bio-German friends. But could we see it?


Over the last few years, I have become increasingly aware that dealing with one another in this way cannot be the solution to the problems at hand - not even if we do not reach an agreement about what these problems are. Although the visibility on the street of different opinions and attitudes is important, it cannot be everything.


Picture of a demonstration with a banner saying "against"

But what are the alternatives? If we want to answer this question, we first have to be clear about the goal, for better or worse. Because between a cozy course and war, compromise and class wedges, there are many possibilities that can lead us to very different results. One thing is the same for all of them: we have to talk! Communication is key. This is true even in war - albeit at one of the lowest levels of human interaction.


Is it supposed to be that easy? Then let's get started! I've tried it many times and noticed that not only is it not easy (no one said it was), but it's also not successful. Again and again I found myself in fruitless exchanges of different basic attitudes and moral ideas, which were later clearer but were not ready for any kind of rapprochement. This often affected me so much that I went about my life with bad feelings for days - not a viable option in the long term. In discussions with good and not so good friends, I have often heard that perhaps I am simply not capable of conflict (enough). Maybe I lack the courage to let the disagreement stand. For a long time I was ashamed of this and increasingly avoided discourse with people who had fundamentally different approaches to solutions than I did - later I even avoided listening.


Today I realized that there are different ways of communicating with people who think differently. All of them have their advantages and disadvantages and experts are required in all of these types of cooperation. I now know that diversity here is not an obstacle but rather an important enrichment. An enrichment that perhaps has no alternative on the way to solutions (I've always wanted to use that word).


For me, I was able to understand that without a basic sense of goodwill, I can have little success in communication. Then it is possible to leave contradictions standing or to find even the smallest compromises. For example, it is very helpful to live the beauty, the joy, the challenges, the success and the direction but also the difficulties in your own area and to share this with others. For us, this can mean, for example, that we live and enjoy our Jewishness to the fullest and leave the doors open to those who treat us well, would like to learn something, enjoy with us and show their interest. This applies to each and every one of us but also to our communities, clubs and projects that we want to be a part of. Without devaluing other methods of argument and communication, I have noticed that this is the most effective way to strike a balance between feasibility and success when working together. I can do that and that's how I am. Others are different and have their talents.

Isn't that naive? This question is difficult to answer. All of this only works if others act differently and use their talents to create and maintain a fundamental moral or political consensus every day. But it also requires that you can safely set clear boundaries. Allowing tolerance to become a lack of opinion is not very helpful. I, for example, use the laws and the Declaration of Human Rights for this boundary - especially for all questions in the interpersonal area. Even if I set stricter conditions for myself, I must be clear that trusting communication is not possible without goodwill on both sides. Then the others have to use their talents.


And what now? I would like to encourage myself and all readers to use their own skills and abilities with verve and commitment in order to stay in the conversation! I hope that it is clear to everyone that there is not one right way of communication (although there definitely seem to be many wrong ones), but that we as a community are convincing in our colorfulness and diversity. This creates the best opportunities not only to improve coexistence, but in our particular case also to protect and preserve our community. Everyone should dare to be as Jewish as they feel. This can change over time or remain a fixed value. It may or may not suit others, but it is the best opportunity we have to make our contribution to the quality of social interaction.


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