You know the saying, “Two Jews, three opinions.” It’s funny and true. Jews seem to enjoy taking ideas apart and examining them from every angle. What is the Talmud, after all, but a book of debate?
The Jewish tradition of argument has given the world more than its share of brilliant Jewish scholars, leaders, lawyers, and teachers. I guess outspokenness and debate are byproducts of being a people devoted to repairing the world. But how do we handle argument right now when deep political divisions enflame the nation and bubble up within our own Jewish community?
In last week’s Atlanta Jewish Times, reporter Dave Schechter asked Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal of Ahavath Achim Synagogue how to cultivate civility and turn down the rhetorical heat. Rabbi Rosenthal pointed to unique ways Judaism helps people find common ground.
In this moment when Georgia is at the center of the news, and when one of the run-off candidates for Senate is Jewish, political passions are boiling over once again.
Marc Gopin is another rabbi who has dedicated his life to conflict resolution in Afghanistan, Syria, Ireland, and Israel. He counsels people embroiled in political argument to “Stop talking, listen, and keep asking questions.” Thoughtful questions, he believes, illuminate the mind and move us towards what we have in common. Gopin has discovered that kindness and concern literally create new neural pathways that can change the mind. Our words can take us from fear and hate to openness and compassion.
At times like this I sometimes hear from people who feel that this Federation, and Federations in general, favor a particular point of view. I want to be really clear: Federation celebrates engagement in democracy. However, as a nonprofit, we cannot and do not participate in elections, including endorsing candidates or parties.
Federation remains focused on our mission to care for, connect, and strengthen our Jewish community throughout greater Atlanta, Israel, and the world, with our focus on impacting people, not politics. About this there should be no argument.