Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC)

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Urging discourse be guided by Derech Eretz (Common Decency)

JCRC and our Jewish communal traditions embrace – indeed, exemplify – robust diversity of thought. We encourage the exchange of differing views, which is how we learn about and from each other. Diversity of opinions on public policy issues of the day, expressed with thoughtfulness among our member organizations, is a cornerstone of our work. The very manner in which we engage one another reflects our values and advances our purposes.

As Jews in America, we are blessed – as are all citizens – with the constitutionally guaranteed and socially encouraged right to participate in the exchange of ideas in the public square. Exercising that right strengthens our democracy.

With growing concern, we have seen some members of our Jewish community – from across the political spectrum – engage in discourse in ways that both reflect sharp national divisions and foster Jewish communal ones. The views and humanity of others with different opinions on Israeli or American politics are too often treated in ways that erode decency, civility and respect, and too often the attacks become personal.

We have seen disrespectful behaviors take place at communal events, online and in inter-personal discussions. Sometimes these expressions have become verbally aggressive and menacing. It is not uncommon for today’s offender to become tomorrow’s victim. The results of such encounters are emotionally taxing on the targeted individuals, an affront to our Jewish values, and a setback to all that we seek to build together.

JCRC calls upon our community to exemplify the noble Jewish ideal of derech eretz (common decency). We will not allow our arguments to devolve into sinat chinam, or baseless hatred. Instead, we will respect the majority and minority opinions in our community; we will focus our comments on the substantive issues and not blame, attack, or condemn others; and we will listen with an open heart, recognizing that we can learn from each other.

Individually and collectively, when faced with violations of basic communal norms, we must not stand idly by. Our aspirations and work are noble. How we pursue them must be too.

Signed (in formation):

A Wider Bridge Chicago
AJC Chicago
Anti-Defamation League, Greater Chicago/Upper Midwest Region
B’nai B’rith International
Cantors Assembly
Chicago Board of Rabbis
Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds
Hillels of Illinois
Jewish Labor Committee
Jewish National Fund, Chicago
Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago
JUF Women’s Division
JUF Young Leadership Division
MERCAZ USA
National Council of Jewish Women Illinois State Policy Advocacy Network
Union for Reform Judaism
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism – Central District
Zionist Organization of America