Editorial: Light Voter Turnout

By Jewish Light Editorial

Now that election season — the only time we actually pine for (nonpolitical) commercials — is over, it’s time to issue a friendly challenge to our readers: Give us feedback on our campaign coverage and more generally on the opinions and analysis presented in the Light. We strive to be as inclusive as possible as presenting responsible and meaningful perspectives in the Light, and if there are ways to do that better, we’re all in.

A common motto in evaluating community input is never to confuse the loudness of the noise with the depth of the concern. And during political campaigns, boy, is the noise loud! Yet ascertaining the depth of your true perceptions, and the reasons for them, are things we’re extremely desirous of uncovering.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

(And there’s still a few more days to take our online survey about the Light’s content—see the link near the top of our website or use the QR code in this editorial).

Sometimes the noise or the depth is about perceived bias on our part for or against a candidate. Other times it’s our acceptance of political ads. In 2008, for instance, we received a lot of advertising from the Republican Jewish Coalition, causing an avalanche of letters. When we explained we take ads from everyone (at least those that meet our objective standards) and that the other side could surely pay us to run their own ads, they did.

We don’t, and have not, ever endorsed or opposed a particular candidate. We are not supposed to do that according to Internal Revenue Service rules governing tax-exempt organizations. We take that admonition quite seriously, though it appears that during this election cycle many religious institutions exercised their civil disobedience by ignoring this prohibition. We’ll see if the IRS chooses to engage the battle of whether the limitation, enacted in the ’50s, violates First Amendment protections of free speech, or whether it is a legitimate restriction that is exchanged for a direct benefit (no federal taxes).

Our substantive viewpoints, expressed in our editorials, vary from one place on the spectrum to another and those will of course jibe more with one candidate than another from time to time. The Light has, for instance, had a pro-choice stance for years and has accepted same-sex unions and marriages in its editorials and wedding announcement policy. These views are going to align more squarely with some candidates and parties than others, but that’s the natural price of taking positions.

Where we sense the greatest difference of opinion about our own positions is regarding Israel. We continue to editorially support a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution and consistently insist on Israel’s safety and security — really, we do; go back and look and you’ll see! We constantly condemn enemies of Israel and have indicated that there are times when military action is justified and appropriate, though it ought be the last resort.

There certainly are things we’ve said that could incur the wrath of those on various points on the continuum. We’ve called out the Israeli leadership when we thought it was too intransigent on the prospect of negotiations, which could cause criticism from the right. But we’ve also taken far left voices in the Jewish world to task for empowering continued militant, terrorist behavior toward Israel. On domestic issues in the Jewish State, we’ve generally taken positions on gender, poverty, education and other social issues that mirror our domestic ones.

We also haven’t always done as good a job as we can in finding a multitude of perspectives to print on issues of import to Jews. Some of this is happenstance — we like almost every media outlet are overworked and underfunded — but that’s a reason, not an excuse. As a news organization, and particularly one that wants to be at the center of your Jewish identity, it is our responsibility to ensure you see a good and wide-ranging sampling of ideas and occurrences.

That’s not to say it’s our job to reprint all perspectives. There are some that are so vastly off base, and others that are way to one end or other of the spectrum. We’re expected to serve as the gatekeeper of what we consider both representative and reasonable, and we will continue to work toward achieving that end the best we can.

Your readership is critical to us, and we don’t take that for granted. We don’t expect or desire each and every one of you to agree with everything you see here. But we definitely want to have content that will in some way be of interest and import to you all, and you should challenge us by telling us what we can do more, better and more responsibly. We’re counting on you! Thanks so much.