Morality first in Eitam debate

Morality first in Eitam debate

As Jews, questioning things is part of our cultural DNA.
The most common question of the week may certainly be, “why haven’t the plows come through our street yet?”
Recently, though, another slew of questions flew through the Jewish community concerning last week’s well-attended Effie Eitam presentation at the Hillel Jewish University Center.
The questions came from both within the actual presentation, as parents and J-Site teenagers made thoughtful policy and belief inquiries to Eitam himself, and outside, as community members questioned why he was brought to Pittsburgh, whether he was an appropriate speaker for teenagers and, most importantly, what his views were on issues of utmost importance to Jewish interest.
In asking questions of Eitam, though, we were forced to ask questions of ourselves, forcing us to sharpen our beliefs. An Israel-related event carrying any level of controversy has that effect — it can no longer be satisfactory to simply support Israel because she’s the Jewish state. Idealism, or looking at Israel as a black and white issue, is foolish.
So in approaching the Eitam event, we hope that the community took the time to research his politics, his background and his beliefs — not for the sake of Eitam or the organizations that brought him, but for piece of mind. With so much news about Israel flying at us at a near-blinding rate, we must emphasize morality over unity, as expressed by the executive director of a local Jewish organization last week.
And we must do so with the understanding that neither the left nor right of Jewish politics has a corner on morality. The people at the opposite end of the spectrum where each of us stand are not the enemy. They are Jews as well. We should listen to them then agree or respectfully disagree depending on our consciences.
Some in our community would label this kind of highbrow morality first debate politically naïve. We couldn’t disagree more. To do otherwise would polarize our community in much the same way Republicans and Democrats have polarized this country.
Was it morally sound to bring Eitam to Pittsburgh? That’s not our place to say. It’s up to you to learn, talk, question and, sure, sometimes argue (but not to condemn or demean). That’s what it means to be Jewish.