In American society, especially in our diverse Jewish community, we value robust and vigorous debate about pressing issues. Such debate is one of the greatest features of our democracy and one of the hallmarks of our people. We revel in our tradition of debate: A frank and civil exchange of ideas helps to inform our decisions, provoke new ways of thinking, and sometimes even change our minds.
And yet today, the expression and exchange of views is often an uncivil, highly unpleasant experience. Community events and public discussions are often interrupted by raised voices, personal insults, and outrageous charges. Such incivility serves no purpose but to cheapen our democracy. When differences spiral down into uncivil acrimony, the dignity of individuals and community is diminished, and our precious democracy is weakened. People holding diverse views cease to listen to each other. Lack of civility makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to open minds, much less find common ground.
To help ensure a civil and productive conversation, we remind everyone here, speakers as well as audience members, that we gather as a community to discuss and debate, but not to degrade. Our goal is a civil and constructive discussion.
This goal has deep roots and support in Torah and our community’s traditions. Our Sages understood and appreciated the fruit of arguments that were conducted l’shem Shamayim, “for the sake of Heaven.” They fervently believed that great minds, engaged in earnest seeking and questioning, could find better and richer solutions to the problems they faced. They refrained from insisting on uniformity. They sought to preserve and thereby honor the views of the minority as well as the majority. This they did through the great teaching, Eilu v’elu divrei Elokim chayim, “both these and those are the words of the living God.”
Robust, vigorous debate about the pressing issues of the day is vital and essential in a pluralistic society, including within our diverse Jewish community.
Deep divisions are to be expected over how to address many issues including but not limited to the domestic economy, the environment, health care, American military involvement abroad, the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the existential threats posed to Israel by terror and Iranian nuclear ambition. A frank and civil exchange of ideas helps to inform and distill consensus. In recent years, however, we have been witness to an increasing challenge in general society and in our own community. There is greater political and socio-economic polarization, the deterioration of civil interaction, decreased sense of common ground among individuals with divergent perspectives, greater tension around global issues and their impact on American society. At times divisions spill over into racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of prejudice and bias. It is cause for great concern.
In rabbinic circles, one increasingly hears sentiments like, “I’m not going to get fired for my politics on gun control or health care, but I could get fired for just about anything I say about Israel.” Rabbi Scott Perlo has coined this the “Death by Israel Sermon.” Across the country, our communal discourse on Israel has grown so ugly that many have stopped caring and engaging at all.
I work with institutions and leaders across the country to build open, constructive communication across political divides on Israel. I’d like to share three patterns that prevail in the current American Jewish conversation about Israel, why it should urgently concern us and what we can do about it.
The first and most common pattern is avoidance. Dodging the “Death by Israel Sermon” is just one example. Most Jewish social justice organizations have explicit policies to avoid Israel. It seems every week another institution bans Israel from its listserv. Even what presents as apathy among millennials is often a mask for avoidance: “Oh, that nasty conversation? Who wants to go there?”
The second pattern is open antagonism: vilification, ad hominem attacks, quoting each other out of context, impugning motives, distorting each other’s posi-tions to reckless caricatures.
Submitted by Haya Thu Apr 25 2013 12:42:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
David Makovsky and Gabrielle Tudin Haaretz
April 24, 2013
Now that Iran is capable of circumventing the nuclear weapons red line, the new U.S. and Israeli defense ministers must coordinate closely to avoid being further outflanked.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who recently made his first trip to Israel in his new post, has thus far avoided publicly using the phrase that had dominated U.S.-Israel relations in the second half of 2012: "Red line."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attracted world attention when he drew an actual red line on an image of a bomb at the United Nations last September. His speech suggested that the issue should be relegated to this spring, the point at which Iran would ostensibly have accumulated one bomb's worth of 20 percent enriched uranium, and could then dash within 30-40 days from reactor-grade to weapons-grade fuel if it chose to "break-out."
Since then, a series of other events have overshadowed the red line issue, including the U.S. election, the Israeli election, and President Obama's Israel visit. Beyond these specific events, there has been a development related to the Iranian nuclear program in the last few months that has given Israel an optimistic ray of hope.
For the first time last fall, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran's nuclear program showed a dip in the amount of 20 percent enriched uranium -- a change from the steady increase in higher enrichment levels found in previous reports. Presumably, Iran had made the decision to divert some enriched uranium away from its nuclear program.
Submitted by Haya Tue Apr 23 2013 12:44:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
April 22, 2013
Changing Tehran's strategic calculus requires a firm set of nuclear red lines, a more credible U.S. military threat, and, most important, greater involvement in Syria.
The failure of the latest round of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program will likely bring calls for changes in the American approach -- for bilateral engagement, for an "endgame proposal," or even for reconsideration of the merits of "containment" of a nuclearweapons- capable Iran. One such proposal -- focusing on strengthening the U.S.
"diplomatic track" with Iran -- was put forward recently by The Iran Project, a group of distinguished former U.S. officials.
There is much in the report with which I agree. In particular, the report is correct to observe that neither sanctions nor engagement alone will accomplish U.S. aims and that a combination of policy tools will be required. It is also right to begin with an assessment of U.S. and Iranian interests and objectives, which should be the starting point for any successful policy.
However, I would differ with the report on four vital issues and thus reach different conclusions regarding the way forward on Iran policy.
First, the report conflates the objectives and interests of Iran writ large with those of the Iranian regime. The principal-agent problem that bedevils even democratic governments is particularly pronounced in authoritarian regimes, such as Iran's, which are not accountable to an electorate. Care must therefore be taken to distinguish between Iranian national interests and regime interests.
Submitted by Haya Tue Apr 09 2013 19:04:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Adopted by JCPA 2013 Plenum
The Jewish community has a deep and abiding concern for public safety, firmly rooted in Jewish tradition which compels us to uphold the sanctity of life.
In recent years, we have witnessed a profoundly distressing series of mass shootings in schools, shopping malls, theaters, houses of worship, and elsewhere, including the atrocity committed in Newtown, Connecticut in which 20 elementary school children and six educators were murdered. The Jewish community itself has experienced this violence at community centers, Jewish federations, and elsewhere. These violent and horrific acts shock our conscience and country. The pandemic of mass gun violence in America far exceeds that in other Western nations.
Submitted by Haya Tue Apr 09 2013 18:30:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Adopted by 2013 JCPA Plenum
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires employers to pay employees equal pay for equal work, regardless of the employee’s sex. So long as a job requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and is performed under similar working conditions, the employer must provide the same rate of pay to men and women who perform jobs that are substantially equal. It is job content—not job titles—that determines whether jobs are substantially equal.
Although this landmark law helped close the pay gap, improvements are necessary to make this civil rights act more effective. Women continue to earn less than their male counterparts. In 2011, the Census Bureau reported that women working full time earned on average 23 percent less than similarly situated men. Thus, for every dollar earned by a man, a woman doing equal work earned only 77 cents. The gap is substantially worse for women of color, with African American women earning 64 cents and Hispanic women earning 55 cents to every dollar earned by Caucasian men.