Aug 31, 2012

Disagreement Without Dislike: A Light Unto Our Community

As a native South Floridian highly tuned in to public discourse, I’m hardly surprised by the latest headlines. Sharing the news cycles with Tropical Storm Isaac are, of course, the Republican and Democratic campaigns rising to fevered pitch around their national conventions as they select their presidential nominees. While we may be accustomed to the highly charged partisan atmosphere of these contests, even as someone steeped in the political realm for decades I find myself increasingly jarred by their increasing decline in civility – a decline now commonplace throughout our society, and too often evident in our Jewish community.

We can and we must do better. Diversity of opinion is a cornerstone of Jewish tradition as well as American democracy. Especially at election season and on topics that arouse our deepest passions as caring Jews, respectful discourse is essential to our strength and well-being - as a community and as a people. And the need for civility in our Jewish community goes far beyond elections and public discourse.

Civility demands and deserves our nurture and practice to pervade our organizational life – from our board and committee rooms to our staff meetings and private offices, at our water coolers, in our emails and on our telephones. At the heart and center of this diverse Jewish community, our Federation has stepped up to its convening role toward creating a norm of respectful disagreement without dislike. To fulfill our essential communal responsibility to take care of our people, it is upon us – as institutions and as individuals - to learn to live together in a more genteel manner.

Let each of us be a light unto this community.

As we finish cleaning and catching up from Isaac’s deluge, our thoughts and prayers have turned to the northern Gulf Coast including New Orleans. Our Federation will respond, as we did after Hurricane Katrina, as we always do for storms and other emergencies here, in Israel and overseas. Actively engaged with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) coalition, JFNA, along with the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, will soon let us know what is needed and how we can help.

In closing, I’m glad to share a new opportunity to connect with me about building our community together. I invite you to email me at


Matthew C. Levin
CEO Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County

Past Messages from Matt