Community the ties that thread us together

The clapping starts in New York City every evening at 7pm.

It begins with a few claps and slowly crescendos into a cacophonous thunder of applause.

Similar arrangements can be heard in places across the world with people assembling on their balconies, standing in their doorways, hanging out their windows, and climbing on their rooftops to applaud emergency service providers and essential workers.

After another long day of juggling work calls, family life and domestic responsibilities, we stop, take a breath, cheer at the top of our lungs, and remember that we are not alone.

Just outside our doors there is a whole community of people living a similar reality.

And for just a few moments, the emptied streets fill with cheery sounds and light.

Whether you, an acquaintance or a loved one are working on the front lines, or even if you have no personal connection to someone who is, we cheer because we’re all part of this community of committed individuals who are striving for a better world.

But does our solidarity mean we all belong to the same community?

Can we be in community with people who we don’t even know?

What are the parameters, if any, that define community?

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, one of the great public intellectuals of our age, describes three kinds of community that exist within Jewish tradition: Edah, Tsibbur, and Kehillah. Each Hebrew word reflects a different model of community which can help answer the questions above.

In this Value Spark, we will explore the value of Community in relation to these three models and explore what types of community we are a part of and which we are searching for at this moment in time.


Community hopping has never been so easy - from Synagogues to yoga classes and concerts to cooking classes. Every Zoom link is a portal to a world with its own ethos, values and norms. Environmentalists attract other nature lovers. Intellectuals gather around texts. Musicians create and appreciate music. We are attracted to these worlds because in them we hope to find unity with like-minded individuals.

Often, core values attract likeminded people to form an Edah.

But once you find your brethren, are you immediately an Edah? What are ways that you can nourish your collective identity?

In Corona Times, gathering in an Edah is often virtual. While the group is likely gathering to delve into something of common interest, there is still a need to cultivate the community.


Rabbi Sacks’ suggests that a Tsibbur is a community more in name than in reality. It is defined by numbers more than identity. There are certain tasks that can only be done with the presence and assistance of others (i.e. Minyan, a prayer quorum) and therefore a Tsibbur gathers to achieve them.

In a Tsibbur, people are tied together by threads of circumstance.

Where do you encounter Tsibbur and how powerful is the connection for you?

Writing & Drawing | Activity time: 15 Minutes

Below is a poem by the great Israeli poet Zelda about her own threads of connection.

Read and respond to the poem by visualizing and drawing your own Threads of Connection.


Rabbi Sacks’ third type of community is a Kehillah. It is the type of community where its members are different from one another, but they work together for a common purpose and shared vision. A Kehilla is a community that combines the best elements of both an Edah and Tsibbur.

At M², we have the privilege of working with Jewish educators from all walks of life. We may have different orientations and ways of approaching our work, but we are united in our common purpose to create meaningful Jewish educational experiences for learners. If we – the readers of this Spark – were to write a collective manifesto, what would it say? How could it reflect our differences while identifying our shared goal? Let’s try it.

Writing, Visioning | Activity time: 25 Minutes

Below is an activity - in both digital and printable versions - where you can add your voice to our community's shared vision and values for the Jewish community.

Fill in the blanks to craft your own vision and value statements.

Perhaps this value exploration about Community has answered a number of questions, and perhaps it has left you with more.

There are different types of community that we are each a part of at any given moment, based on choice, circumstance, or action. Some are intimate and exclusive while others are comprised of people you’ll never meet. They all have their benefits, but each can leave us looking for something more.

And yet, being in community with anyone, for any purpose, threads together individuals who are better off as a result.

We began with a video of clapping. Let’s end with our own claps. Let’s clap for the times that we show up in a Tsibbur; let’s clap for our sense of belonging that we feel when we are in an Edah; let’s clap for the strong collective actions that result when we build a Kehillah.

And on the count of three, let’s clap. One… Two... Three


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