It’s easy to get lost in the tumult of election-year politics. Shouting, name-calling and attacking often overshadow any actual conversation or debate, regardless of creed or party.
Factoring Jewish ideals into the issues is not often a priority, but Chabad Intown Rabbi Ari Sollish said it should be.
Rabbi Sollish will lead a six-part class on Judaism and some of the leading controversies of this election season. The goal of “Election 2016: Jewish Wisdom on the Ballot” is not to embrace one party’s stance on an issue or to call out a specific candidate, but to illustrate what a number of Jewish classical sources say.
Those sources often stem from the Talmud but also are drawn from the Torah.
“Given the rhetoric and animosity of the debates that take place, the idea was to offer a course where politics are left aside, and the issues that people are facing are front and center,” Rabbi Sollish said. “The course is not about telling people how to vote, but about presenting Jewish wisdom on the issues that are being debated on traditional media, as well as on social media.”
The six sessions will address gun control, immigration, the mysticism behind political choices, income inequality, wealth and leadership, and taxation.
Rabbi Sollish shared some of the perspectives that will be relevant to the first topic, gun control. “We get into the legal issues, the Second Amendment, Supreme Court rulings. We get into these issues to set the stage for a Jewish debate on the topic. When we bring in Talmudic sources, it shifts the conversation away from the typical talking points.”
He added: “Everyone has the talking points down. The debate points are well known, but our goal is to bring a new perspective. We want to allow people to draw their own conclusions, but we’ll be framing the issue in a fresh way.”
The course is eligible for continuing legal education credits for lawyers.
Rabbi Sollish wants to make it clear that this course should not be taken as the one correct Jewish approach to the issues, but instead will be a discussion drawing on ancient Jewish sources.
The course is intended to foster respectful examination of the issues and to allow participants to discuss the issues in an open and curious manner. Participants should come prepared to look at the issues from a new vantage point and to be open to new conclusions.
“Jewish debate is very different from a lot of the debate that we see today,” Rabbi Sollish said. “Jewish debate has always been about discovering truth rather than about being right. Hillel and Shammai, two of the greatest sages of the Talmud, established a tradition of debating each other. It says in Pirkei Avot, ‘A dispute that is for the sake of heaven will endure forever.’ ”
What: “Election 2016: Jewish Wisdom on the Ballot”
Where: Intown Jewish Academy, 928 Ponce de Leon Ave., Midtown
When: Noon to 1:15 p.m. Mondays, Aug. 15, 22 and 29 and Sept. 12, 19 and 26, or 8 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Aug. 16, 23 and 30 and Sept. 13, 20 and 27
Registration: $50; intownjewishacademy.org/education/events or 404-898-0434