Speak for Yourself

Joshua Runyan
Joshua Runyan

If you’ve ever been to Israel, you’ve probably noticed the propensity of Israelis to adorn their cars, their bus stops — even their street signs — with all manner of bumper stickers. Seen as a reflection of the diversity of those who call the Jewish state home, these political — and even apolitical — statements represent a multitude of views: The people are with Gaza, the people are for peace, the people believe in a strong secular judiciary, the people are pro-environment, etc.

This uniquely Israeli phenomenon was popularized in 2004 by Hadag Nachash, the Hebrew-speaking rap group whose “Shirat Hasticker” (“The Sticker Song”) evoked a society of disparate identities and beliefs that was either coming apart at the seams or held together inside a cauldron of boiling-over tensions. But the spoof didn’t make the situation any less real, which is why anyone who claims to speak for “the Israeli view” is fooling himself.

The same can be said for the American Jewish community. Although most of us back here in the United States do not exhibit the same fondness for bumper stickers as our Israeli cousins, the multitude of our identities, religious values and political beliefs means that anyone who claims to speak for “the Jewish view” is being foolish.

As you’ll read this week in the JT, Baltimore — home to a microcosm of the wider American Jewish community — is not of one mind when it comes to the refugee ban, the border wall, defense spending, the economy, education … the list is almost endless. We split along denominational lines, we split along political lines, we split along socioeconomic lines. Some of us support President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order on immigration; others, predictably, do not.

The debate pits concerns over religious-based discrimination against fears for public safety, the sovereign right of countries to protect their borders against an implied duty of all nations to protect those fleeing war zones and near-certain death.

In the background, of course, are the other immigration- related concerns of job growth, wage stagnation, economic productivity and national character.

Especially since these and other issues will now be weighed by the judicial system — starting with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that on Tuesday heard oral arguments over a federal judge’s Feb. 3 temporary restraining order striking down Trump’s executive order — perhaps all of us should remember that no one among us speaks for the whole of us. At best, each of us only represents a part.

Like our loved ones across the Atlantic, we will only be able to enjoy the company of our neighbors and friends if we grant them the room to disagree.



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