Reconciliation is the path to which we must return
November 13, 2020
In the aftermath of a close election and the improbability of the nation coming together, irrespective of who finally wins the presidency, one thing is certain: The existing sharp political divisions in the American Jewish community must be reconciled, and a major effort must be made by all factions in our community to establish mutual respect for all members despite the divergent views on so many issues each may hold.
If we are to be a significant player in continuing our outstanding record of contribution to American society in every field of American life, while maintaining the hard-earned respect of the general public for the important role American Jews have played in the story of America, there is no alternative but reconciliation within our own community.
This is not the first time in our history where differences of opinion have arisen and sharply divided us. Of the 12 spies dispatched by Moses to scout the Promised Land only two returned with a positive report. The other 10 contradicted the two and created fear in the Israelites who threatened to rebel and return to Egypt rather than risk their lives in being defeated in the Promised Land.
Unfortunately, in the years leading up to American involvement in WW II and even during the war, American Jews were deeply split on whether to speak out for European Jewry; and in the absence of consensus, opportunity was lost to save many thousands or even millions that were lost in the Holocaust.
The Talmud is replete with not only discussions of Jewish law and Torah interpretation, but also includes vigorous arguments between and among the great scholars during the rabbinic period of our history. While many issues of Jewish law remain unresolved, all sides of an argument are presented with equal dignity and respect for the proponents of each point of view.
We are an argumentative people, but we should not be a disrespectful people. Name calling, labeling or any other pejorative language to describe or denigrate an opponent does not add any merit to an issue about which the proponent has a strong conviction. Nor does it reflect well on the proponent.
As the “people of the book,” we should embrace the concept that debate, reason, civil discourse and truth wrapped in mutual respect are the cornerstones of public policy formation. This is the Jewish way. This is the American way. As I have written before, “The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States thrives on the truth, but dies with lies.”
Of critical importance is the rise of anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism in the United States and around the world. If any issue should bring Jewish people together despite our differences this is the one issue around which we must rally. Whether from the left or right, anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism must be met with a united opposition and a united resolve not to look away because of intersectionality. Any movement, cause, private or public policy initiative, no matter how noble a cause, that embraces anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism is an existential threat to the safety, security and well-being of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and is unworthy of Jewish support.
History teaches us that no nation or society has prospered or survived by afflicting suffering upon the Jews. History also teaches us that a strong and unified Jewish people is the best safeguard for Jewish survival and well-being. That is why reconciliation is the path to which we must return.
If you wish to comment or respond you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner.
Mel Pearlman holds B.S. & M.S. degrees in physics as well as a J.D. degree and initially came to Florida in 1966 to work on the Gemini and Apollo space programs. He has practiced law in Central Florida since 1972. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; was a charter board member, first vice president and pro-bono legal counsel of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as holding many other community leadership positions.