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I have always enjoyed playing games and puzzles that involve words. As a child, I remember waiting excitedly for every edition of the Weekly Reader and Highlights magazine so I could solve the word search as quickly as possible. My next memories are completing simple crosswords, playing Scrabble with my family, and working on Jumbles with my mother. Then came competing with my children in Bananagrams and playing Wordle with my wife every day. Most recently, she and I have taken to working together to solve Connections in the New York Times. It is a game in which you are given 16 seemingly random words among which you need to find a common thread that unites them in groups of four.

Most of the time, we find the answers pretty quickly. Not so over the last couple of days; the associations between and among the words have been hard to grasp. Rather than simply accepting defeat, I began thinking about what lessons I could take from Connections and apply to Global Jewry. After all, making connections is what our initiative is all about.

My main takeaway is the importance of thinking expansively. In Connections, that means taking the time to consider every potential use of a word. Not only are there homonyms (words having the same sound and spelling but totally different meanings such as bat and craft) and homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings such as ate and eight), but words can differ dramatically from their primary definition when used as slang or in conjunction with other words. Solving Connections requires you to consider every alternative, rather than just relying on your first impression.

The same is true for our people and our communities. While some of the ways in which we are alike and may connect are obvious, we require a true understanding of each other to identify the deeper links between us. We must look beyond the countries in which we live, the institutions we support, the affiliations we hold dear, the places we volunteer with and the clothes that we wear to truly appreciate all the things that we may have in common. In short, we need to care enough about each other to make the effort to move past first impressions and identify the profound ways in which we are all connected.

Our mission at Global Jewry is to help people take that journey and discover all of the wonderful ways in which every member of the Jewish family is related. We must find ways to overcome the geographic, demographic, linguistic and ideological barriers that conspire to keep us fragmented as a people, and celebrate the values, aspirations and responsibilities that unite us.

Opening our minds to all possibilities isn’t just a good way to solve a difficult Connections or, even harder, the Sunday crossword puzzle in the NYT, it is also a key to success for Global Jewry.

As always, thank you for your support, and may this week be the one when the hostages can finally return home.

Shabbat Shalom,

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