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Debate ideas rather than sweep dissention under the carpet

  • Letter2
In difficult circumstances, you produce a really fine community newspaper. It gives us a rare opportunity to explore diverse views.
by Alan Menachemson, Johannesburg | Jul 11, 2019

A major reason for the polarisation of the world’s democracies and religions is the ability social media gives people to avoid opinions that don’t correlate with their own.

In particular, I enjoyed the dialogue you published over the Beth Din’s decision not to participate in Limmud. The opinions range from sincere to witty, and provide welcome stimulation.

As an orthodox Jew, I respectfully disagree with the chief rabbi’s decision.

At face value, of course he is right. A platform of pluralism gives credibility to anti-Torah schools of thought.

But, of course, we have to question whether it is helpful to try to eliminate exposure of our community to thoughts that we oppose. Is it even possible?

Or, should we rather have the conviction to rise to the challenge, and sharpen our arguments, confident that the truth will always prevail if presented clearly and respectfully?

Countless studies in the field of cognitive dissonance conclude that a belief system is strengthened by exposure to alternative viewpoints.

I understand that many rabbis hold that quality is more important than quantity, and that kedusha (holiness) is diminished by open exposure.

But we don’t have to look back too far in history to see the shortfalls of this argument.

In response to the Haskalah movement, the mainstream rabbis instituted severe restrictions (such as prohibitions from making sermons in the vernacular or using raised pulpits). These did more harm than good, and were subsequently abandoned.

It goes without saying that the challenges and opportunities facing the Jewish community today are significantly greater, and there is considerably less room for error.

As it is said, news must contain unpopular views. The rest is advertising. You do us proud.

Going forward, I would love to see other debates. For instance, between anti and pro-Zionist orthodox communities covering military service, entitlement, and other areas.

Far from sowing division, it would enable participants to examine, strengthen, or modify their convictions, instead of sweeping dissension under the carpet, and expressing their opinions only to like-minded people in yeshivot or at insular Shabbat meals. 

2 Comments

  1. 2 Rafi Plotkin ( Canada ) 16 Jul
    This newspaper is a wonderful example of what journalism should encapsulate,
    Both The Limmud coverage and that of the unqualified accountant’s alleged Ponzi scheme is balanced, objective and necessary to keep the community informed.
    Kol Hakavod to the Editor and all the journalists.
    I am ashamed of being Jewish when my co religionists commit crime, not because of the misguided belief that the journalists who exposed this sin are guilty of criminal behaviour.
    The family of the frum alleged Ponzi scheme perpetrator should understand that “ The truth will set them free”
  2. 1 Zac Krawitz 16 Jul
    Kol Hakavod Alan for being so tolerant and wise

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