"If you listen carefully, you get to hear everything you didn't want to hear in the first place."
-- Sholem Aleichem, author and playwright (1859-1916)
Curiosity, open-mindedness and respect for divergent views haven't gone out of style in this polarized, unsettled time. Listening to unorthodox speakers can increase understanding, test beliefs and perhaps reveal surprises.
But some Metro Detroiters don't care what Rep. Rashida Tlaib tells the Detroit Jewish News in a wide-ranging interview, and more than a few blast the publication for talking with her. As editor Andrew Lapin anticipated, his conversation with the Detroit congresswoman touches a nerve.
"I imagine this issue will spark some debate," he writes Thursday in an accompanying column. And so it does, along with subscription-ending threats -- cancel culture in its literal sense.
"It's time to cancel our subscription," says Robyn Heicklen of West Bloomfield under an interview link on the weekly's Facebook page. Her husband, David Heicklen, adds: "Despicable! Detroit Jewish News, you're losing subscribers with this garbage!"
It's disheartening to see my people, as this non-observant tribesman still calls fellow Jews, shut their eyes and turn their backs on a local elected official's effort to engage, to explain, to communicate frankly and to suggest shared interests. Instead, some post defiantly that they know what they don't want to know.
"I know what I need to know about Tlaib and so should everyone else by now," posts Mickey Levin of Farmington Hills. Nancy Besser of Bloomfield Hills says: "To even give her a ear is beyond a shanda."
Those willing to read, rather than reflexively reject, see honest replies to 25 questions that include answers many won't like -- "the two-state [solution] is almost impossible now around the racist policies of Netanyahu" -- and some that show commonality. "White supremacy is really what brings us all together," says the first Palestinian-American woman in the U.S. House. "When we talk about anti-Semitism, when we talk about anti-Blackness, anti-immigrant, it’s all of us together fighting against the same people."
"One thing you will always get from me is full honesty," vows Tlaib, who suggests that she and other politicians be evaluated on overall positions and performance rather than just on one issue.
"I would never, ever come from a place of hate or division. It will always be a place of love and bringing people together based on values.
"I want people to choose that first and then listen to me, because if you do, you will see that it really is the same thing. Everybody should feel safe. Everybody should have equality. Everyone should feel like they had a right to exist."
Supportive comments are among nearly 200 mostly negative first-day reactions on three threads at the Jewish News' page on Facebook:
"It’s a good sign to show that she has reached out and engaged in conversation." -- Austin Avison, Detroit
"I am frankly shocked at the blanket cancelling of the DJN for posting this brave piece. Holding our leaders accountable is part of a thriving democracy." -- Sophie Loeb, Detroit
"Progressive Jews who have been in this fight for a while know that the congresswoman has their backs unequivocally." -- Levi Aaron Teitel, West Bloomfield
Others can't or won't distinguish news coverage from giving comfort to an enemy. Susan Kellman of West Bloomfield seems to equate an interview with election year support: "Time to rename the paper from Detroit Jewish News to Anti-Jewish News."
Similarly, Michael Aldouby of Livonia says: "The JN collaborates with an overt anti-Semite." (Actually, Lapin is no partisan collaborator. His sharp, tough questions begin with this: "To many of our readers, you are Public Enemy Number One. What is your reaction?")
Al Wright, a Jackson photographer, thinks the Jewish News should muffle newsmakers he dislikes: "The suffering will never end until people like her quit getting their voices heard." Mitchell Pressel of Eastpointe feels the same way: "There wasn't a reason to interview her. She is an evil person to the Jewish community."
In his column, the Southfield publication's editor steps ahead of the expected pushback by reminding readers: "To survive as a people, we must be willing to talk: to each other and to others. After all, dialogue is a sacred Jewish value."
Amen to that.