Commentary: Taking the Next Step
On Sunday, Nov. 18, the Michigan Jewish Action Council, along with the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at Wayne State University, presented “The Jewish Right-Left Divide: Can We Bridge the Gap?” This dialogue was the first step in a process to bring rapport to the Jewish community.
An enthusiastic and engaged crowd filled Adat Shalom Synagogue’s chapel to capacity. Jonathan Neumann, author of the new book To Heal the World?, explained positions on the right of the political spectrum. Professor Howard Lupovitch, Cohn-Haddow’s director, presented the left’s point of view. Former Navy SEAL LCDR Adam Weiner moderated the two-part discussion.
The first part of the dialogue was “Exploring the Right-Left Divide.” It began with a pair of interesting questions: “What does the Jewish left not know about the Jewish right?” and “What does the Jewish right not know about the Jewish left?”
The participants were congenial and respectful.
Before the second dialogue, the audience saw a special video by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Seven Principles for Maintaining Jewish Peoplehood, lest we be divided. The audience displayed its appreciation for the video with loud applause.
The fifth principle was based on the Book of Proverbs: “As water reflects face to face, so does the heart of man to man” and “As you behave to others, they will behave to you.”
Rabbi Sacks explained, “If you show contempt for other Jews, they will show contempt to you. If you respect other Jews, they will show respect to you. So, if you seek respect, give respect.”
The second part of the dialogue was “Bridging the Gap.” One of the questions was about the altogether divisive condemnations made in the aftermath of the horrific Pittsburgh shootings, vilifying and even calling for the ex-communication of all Jewish Trump supporters. Sadly, Rabbi Sacks’ fifth principle did not prevail in discussing the aftermath.
What’s the next step? Is there a way forward? Can the two sides get together?
An issue emerged during the dialogue that could form the basis for a joint undertaking: Ending BDS and anti-Semitism on campus would be a worthy goal for both sides.
On the internet, we have seen calls to action by organizations on both the left and right protesting Airbnb’s new BDS policy. (Airbnb will not accept listings by Jewish renters in Israel’s disputed territories, even while it will continue to list properties in occupied territories elsewhere in the world).
The community-wide actions called for in emails and on social media include boycotting the boycotters by ending property listings and user memberships with Airbnb, writing/emailing them with complaints and signing online petitions. Will joint protests lead to a better relationship between the Jewish right and left?
Let’s find out!
Dorene Weisberg is co-president of the Michigan Jewish Action Council.