People seek people of like mind. In the 1950s, sociologists termed this phenomenon “homophily,” which translates to "love of the same" or “the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others.” Now more than ever, fueled by a media that largely makes a business of pandering to opinions rather than reporting facts, those of like mind are liking those of differing opinions less and less. From now until November 8, we are compelled to choose political sides. But on November 9, we will need to look beyond our political preferences and work together to build a better future. Looking to our own Jewish organizations to model working constructively with people of differing perspectives is one way forward.
We celebrate and respect the reality that all of Jewish faith, heritage and affinity do not share similar beliefs and practices. Communities, some formal like our religious congregations and some informal like PAVE, are made up of individuals with varying backgrounds. Seeking out those who share similar perspectives creates community and validates one’s sense of self and belonging.
However, we all have our intrinsic biases. How we act on those biases sets the tone for how we interact with each other, especially with individuals or groups with differing points of view. It’s our identity politics, whether they be religion or how best to govern, that tends to divide us.
How do those with varied backgrounds celebrate their differences while still feeling like they belong to their respective affinity groups? Conversely, how do these affinity groups retain their distinct identities while not feeling threatened by those foreign to their communal consciousness?
I believe we need to look within and across our own Jewish organizations to model positive channels of communication. We need to reflect and improve upon how those with divergent opinions can cooperate and engage in productive dialogue. Ours should be an example for others to follow. From discussions I have had since assuming the position of CEO, I believe we are well on our way, with still much work to be done.
Election Day won’t mark the Apocalypse. It won’t be the earthquake that divides our country or the last brick that completes the “wall” financed by campaign rhetoric. It should be seen as an opportunity to rebuild trust among groups that, with the best of intentions, approach the solving of problems from different perspectives but often from complementary directions.
Working together, with like mind, with differing points of view, we can exemplify what is possible post-November 8.