The inability to reach a common stand on an important issue,especially when clear decisions were urgently needed, has thus persisted from Second Temple times to this day.
The sages, long ago, blamed the tendency known as Sin’at Hinam (causeless hatred), which was expressed in the discord preventing any cooperative action and decision-making for the welfare of the Jews as a whole.
Through the centuries, this has had many tragic consequences,because although factionalism may be justified or at least tolerated in uneventful times of peace, it is otherwise in times of distress and disaster.
From the perspective of history, we can deplore the dissension and differences of opinion, whose triviality becomes clear against the background of the terrible and critical events of the Jews’ generation.
For instance, in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a desperate minority decided to fight and the various political groups could not choose a unified leadership.
In the recent era, this factionalism has not diminished; it may even have grown somewhat.
The irrepressible growth of the Haskalah movement of enlightenment, the organization of separate religious frameworks of all kinds, and the various modes of assimilation into the non-Jewish world have all contributed to increased division.
Even the monolithic structure of religious faith and a Jewish way of life, which all through the ages unified the nation, has been shattered into fragments.
These fragments themselves keep on splitting apart into factions, into ever smaller fragments.
And the leaders of the various factions never seem to agree.
Every important problem leads to increasing rupture; there does not seem to be any way of even getting them to sit together and discuss the problem.
The reasons for the discord are drawn from a huge variety of serious theological and religious sources, from political and economic interests of genuine urgency, and from personal animosities of long standing, which, irrelevant and pointless as they are,remain factors of importance.
Plausible as they may be, all these stubborn reasons for division within the people prevent the possibility of a unified Jewish action that could further the entire national potential.
There can be no doubt that the Jews need a “supreme council of Elders of Zion.”
Not, of course, to exert any influence in the world, but simply to assure their own existence, for the sake of self-preservation.
It is too bad that such a conclave of leaders is no more than an anti-Semitic fabrication.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From We Jews by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz