In the US, and I suspect in other Jewish areas such as England as well, the Jewish community in any given area tends to be rather monolithic. For example in New Jersey, Passaic is Litivish Ultra-Orthodox, so is Lakewood. Morristown is Chabad. Monsey (ok, NY but just outside of NJ) is majority chassidic, some parts of town pretty exclusively one chassidic type or another – other parts a mixed bag. Teaneck, Elizabeth, and West Orange.
Yet I up and moved to Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. For those who don’t know, Ramat Beit Shemesh has become, outside of Jerusalem, the premier destination for people moving to Israel from English speaking countries. (And there’s a nice contingent of French speakers there also.)
While Jerusalem somewhat follows the standard monolithic pattern above (again just substitute in neighborhood names to find the chassidic neighborhoods, the Litvish, modern orthodox, sephardic, etc), Ramat Beit Shemesh tries to perform the same exercise on a single street or two at a time. This leads to a level of intermingling that other areas lack.
Walk across the street and go from a more modern area to a litvish area. Another street and it’s chassidic. As an example, on my nearby street corner there’s a litvish shul, a mizrachi (modern-ish) shul, a sephardi shul, and a Chabad shul. There’s even a street of non-religious Jews that drive, slowly and carefully, in and out of the neighborhood on Shabbos.
Ok, people aren’t davening together on Shabbos – everyone has their preferred nusach, Shabbos songs, siddur, etc. But when walking down the street the guy in the shtreimel and gold stripped long coat (Jerusalem bekeshe) says Good Shabbos to the guy in the suite and tie.
Achdus, unity, isn’t becoming the same. It’s respecting each other. And in Ramat Beit Shemesh, that’s a good point.
(For some Torah from Ramat Beit Shemesh, check out Yesh Ma L’asot’s Emunah Institute at http://YeshMaLasot.org )
Akiva blogs at Mystical Paths.