A community is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. Some of the most fundamental Jewish events often times require a community, such as forming a minyan or saying Shiva. But even beyond those instances, the Jewish community is often extremely welcoming and tight-knit.
Perhaps one of the greatest examples of the strength of the Jewish community is in Koh Samui, Thailand. Earlier this year, my family and I embarked to this island—for the second time—to attend the largest Pesach seder in the world. There, 2,500 Jews came together to form one large family. Upon arriving, we were greeted with warm smiles from a diverse group of people. My family and I made numerous friends and even came away with multiple offers of places to stay around the globe. The Chabad Rabbi and his family were especially hospitable and welcoming to all the guest, which was incredible given the number of people.
While in Koh Samui, a young Israeli backpacker was accused of using fake money by a Thai cashier. The backpacker was taken into custody by the local policy chief, and although the Rabbi only met him once, he went down to the police station to argue the case of the young man and proved he was innocent. That same Shabbat, the backpacker was released and everyone in the synagogue welcomed him back with song and dance. It was as if the young backpacker was a family member, rather than a stranger.
During the trip we also celebrated sheva brachot with complete strangers and became friendly with most people we encountered. We even met IDF Shayetet soldiers (equivalent to U.S. Navy Seals) who helped us with diving questions and made my father an honorary member of their crew. These few instances demonstrate the importance of the local Jewish community assisting not only their congregants but also welcoming newcomers.
Now what makes such an amazing community exist? How can it be possible for people to undertake such acts of kindness for each other without any expectation in return? For the answer to this one must go back to the source of Judaism, the Torah. One of the most famous examples can be traced back to the days of Abraham. According to the Midrash, when Abraham had just fulfilled the will of Hashem (G-D) and circumcised himself at the age of ninety-nine, Hashem asked the angels to come to visit him and wish him a fast recovery. The angels questioned Hashem saying that Abraham is merely a mortal and did not deserve that kind of honor. G-d was furious and took it upon himself to visit him. Eventually, when the three angels visited Abraham, he welcomed them with open arms and prepared a meal to serve, despite being in a fragile state of recovery. The Midrash and the Torah itself are filled with examples like these; Judaism is built around values that create a strong community, so it is not surprise that these principles are still so strong today.
Jonas Edgarov is a freshman at Hicksville High School in Hicksville, N.Y.
Fresh Ink for Teens is an online magazine written by, and for, Jewish students from high schools around the world.