Written prior to the August 2nd Democratic primary Michigan’s 11th District.
Since Michigan approved new electoral districts late last year, members of the Detroit Jewish community — including the two of us — have spent time, energy and money supporting two competing Congressional candidates. We have even written articles here in Nu?Detroit to support Haley Stevens and Andy Levin. Knowing what we know about polling, we are writing this without presuming the outcome of the primary. But regardless of who prevails in August and November, we know that our beloved Detroit Jewish community will remain strong and united in spite of — or even because of — the disagreements that have surfaced over these past several months.
A united community is not a monolith. We doubt that any Jewish community throughout history enjoyed absolute cohesion and consensus. It is essential to the Jewish soul to debate — even, yes, to argue (and one of us was vice president of the JCC board when it removed the racquetball courts.) We mean united in the sense of understanding the importance of community and prioritizing community even when we disagree. Maybe prioritizing community most when we disagree.
None of this is meant to downplay the significance of our disagreements or to discard the importance of elections. For each of us, our political beliefs are central to our identity. Neither of us makes the decision to publicly support candidates lightly. Political and policy debate is vital to good government. We do not anticipate that this will be the last time we disagree personally, nor the last time members of our community find themselves at odds with each other.
But these differences are not an excuse to either withdraw from the Jewish community or to write off other members of our community. We need to be a community where every Jew has a home and every Jew is welcome — even the Jews with whom we disagree.
Once the primary is over, you may be feeling angry at members of the Jewish community who were on the other side of this election. That’s okay. If you are mad at the community itself – however you define it – that’s okay too. Take a few days to vent and rest and recuperate. Then commit to engaging or reengaging with the community to make sure your voice is heard and to work in solidarity with others.
Our Jewish community needs to be one that values diverse perspectives and civil discourse. Our strength is not unanimity — we do not require litmus tests to belong. Our strength is our ability to honestly and respectfully discuss, debate, and even occasionally fight about our opinions but still be willing to grab coffee, break bread or welcome each other into our homes and lives.
May our community continue to move from strength to strength — and to be strengthened by the times and the ways we disagree.