Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas, March 29, 2014 (Photo/JTA-Ethan Miller-Getty Images)
Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas, March 29, 2014 (Photo/JTA-Ethan Miller-Getty Images)

Stop vilifying the ‘other’ — and start listening

Inclusivity is a value, a policy and a goal.

Sometimes it is regulated by law: Buildings must provide wheelchair access, schools must teach children of all abilities, and — more recently, in some states — single-stall bathrooms must be available to all genders.

In other cases, inclusivity is aspirational. Hollywood is urged to develop better roles for women and people of color, and companies push to diversify their staff.

Behind all these efforts is a value, one enshrined in biblical tradition: All people are created in the divine image, and therefore deserve respect.

In recent years, the political dialogue in this country has been sorely lacking in that regard. Last year’s presidential campaign was a prime example, with personal attacks replacing debate between candidates over policy and programs. Name-calling and snide jabs at candidates’ physical attributes gave the campaign an ugly and childish veneer, one that continues to color an already troubled national discourse.

The same kind of vitriol and pettiness infects the conversation in our own Jewish community. While this has been the case for some time — the JCRC’s Year of Civil Discourse, launched in 2010, was an attempt to ameliorate the situation — the past couple of years have witnessed new lows in the way we talk to and treat each other.

This week’s cover story examines one group in the Bay Area Jewish community that feels particularly disrespected: Those who voted for Donald Trump. We don’t hear from them much. Their voices are largely absent from the dominant Jewish conversation.

We reached out to 15 local Jewish Trump supporters. Just five agreed to be interviewed. The others declined, most saying they were fearful of the backlash they expected would follow from friends and colleagues.

Those interviewed, on the record and off, spoke of being called fascists and Nazis by their fellow Jews, sometimes in their own congregations. One person, who refused to be quoted in the story, said his child had been bullied in middle school because of how his parents voted.

This is inexcusable. How can we expect politicians in Washington to reach across the aisle if we cannot do it at the local level? We must not allow opposition to presidential behavior or policies to extend to our personal relationships. And blaming a child for what his parents believe is the lowest kind of nastiness.

Let us mirror what our sages teach us. Do not do unto others that which is hateful to yourself. Listen, debate, reason, agree to disagree.

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens weekly editorials as the voice of J.