Today, it often feels as if civil discourse is in short supply, especially at a time when even mentioning certain issues can feel polarizing. In our communities (and specifically for us, our Jewish community), we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of straddling divides. Yet, debate and civil discourse are central tenets of Jewish life and living; they are reminders of the importance of our heritage to our current moment. I share with you this article recently published that offers some timely thoughts on the issue of [Jewish] debate:
I am a true believer in civil discourse, a dimension of engagement that not only enables us to preserve our relationships with friends, families, and fellow congregants, but also ensures that we maintain robust ties across points of difference. It also provides a space to bring clarity to those areas where we do disagree, better delineating the points of difference and enabling ourselves and others to weigh the various points of argument.
Our new, weekly Food for Thought column (the one you are reading now), is the first intentional space that will serve as a platform for us to share diverse thoughts and opinions on issues of the day. Over the coming months, we will also be creating virtual forums, allowing us to create safe spaces where we can debate challenging issues that emerge from those we must confront, together, as a Jewish community.
Exposing one another to competing viewpoints is itself helpful insofar as we might come to understand how and why another might arrive at conclusions so wildly different from our very own. Louis Brandeis’s old maxim holds a lot of weight for me as we work to evolve an age-old Jewish model: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
I hope you will join me in this critical and sacred work!
– Rabbi Jason Nevarez