Over the last number of years, as I sit down to write either my monthly From Where I Sit column for JLife SGPV or this weekly column, I work very hard in sharing my perspectives in a fair and balanced way. I have rarely dipped into politics. The reason for this is that as the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation, I know that when I speak (or write) I do so as the spokesperson for the entire local Jewish community. And as a result, I have to be very careful. I share this because what I am about to discuss may feel, to some, like I am jumping into the political arena and I wanted to make sure I conveyed the above understandings.
During the last several days, the nation has read, seen and heard some of the January 6 select committee’s findings that have come to light during their public hearings of the events and facts that lead up to (and on) the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. While I know that some people may not agree with how the committee was put together or feel that it is an “illegitimate” committee, the fact remains that it has spent hundreds… even thousands of hours collecting information and facts as they try to better understand what lead to the attack.
As I have been watching the coverage and reading the news stories about all of this, one idea has continued to pop into my mind and that has to do with truth. It feels like the very notion of people’s understanding of what truth is has come to be questioned. No matter what comes from the public hearings or other iterations of it, my big concern is that people will continue to question what is proven to be true or try to spin it in a way that makes something seem not so bad. Will we ever get back to a time when a fact is accepted as just that… a fact and not something to be questioned?
Truthfulness is an extremely high value in Judaism. In Hebrew, the word emet means truth. In fact, in Pirkei Avot (1:18) Rabban Shimon shares “The world stands on three pillars: on truth, on justice, and on peace.” As such, if any one of these three pillars is missing, society and life as we know it would fall apart.
In Emet, an article from a 2008 Jewish Chronicle article, the writer articulates that “We live in a time when truth is not held in high regard in our public life. The political culture of spin and plausible deniability contrives to make the truth retrospectively malleable.” Over the years, rather than come to terms with the fact that something may be true, people have done whatever they can to brush it off as it not being a big deal. In other words, just because you may not like something or agree with it, does not mean that it did not happen. This is something I feel we all need to remember.
There is so much going on all around us… we need some stability. Truth does that, as does kindness, love, and a willingness to accept others' viewpoints, even if we may not agree with them. These foundational pieces can and will get us through this difficult time. And maybe, if all of us buy into these ideals, we can slowly shift the tide.