Newspapers have always been a place where community gathers – a town square of sorts. They are a place where people learn what is happening, hear the opinions of their neighbors, celebrate joys and recount tragedies.
For decades, Rhode Island’s Jewish community has had a proud tradition of the newspaper as a community resource, whether it was the Jewish Herald or the Jewish Voice or, now, Jewish Rhode Island.
As you know, the rise of the internet created strong competition for newspapers as news became more easily accessible and available in real time. Subscriptions have declined, advertising revenue has declined, and newspapers across the country have shuttered. Our Rhode Island Jewish newspaper has not been immune from these national trends.
But the mission of today’s newspaper is more important than ever. Newspapers provide not only a community record, but they present opportunities for reasoned dialogue. The format lends itself to respectful, civil dialogue. When readers must sign their name to their opinion, they must use facts to build their arguments, and a space is created where people can actually hear each other: since we cannot read two things at the same time, people cannot talk past each other in a newspaper.
It is in this spirit that you will start to see some new features in Jewish Rhode Island. Beginning with this issue, we are introducing “The Conversation.” Six issues per year, we will give a forum to people in our community to present their opinion on a topic that is meaningful to Rhode Island’s Jewish community. This month, we begin with the issue of security in our community, exploring whether carrying weapons in synagogue makes people safer.
The conversation will then move online, to jewishrhody.org and our Facebook page. There, you can submit your own viewpoint on the topic – as long as it is presented respectfully. We will then take the most thoughtful responses and print them in the next issue of Jewish Rhode Island. Eventually, we hope to continue the conversation with panel discussions and town halls.
Our goal is to re-establish a place in our society for civilized discussion and debate. To create a space where we can disagree without being disagreeable.
Communities cannot come together if we cannot air our differences and discuss them. If we cannot agree to disagree on some issues, it makes it harder to come together when we do agree.
“The Conversation” is an experiment – but we are confident that our community can have civilized discussion, and move together toward greater unity.
We are returning the newspaper to its rightful place as a source for news and thoughtful commentary that helps make our Jewish community stronger and more vibrant. We hope that you will read and participate.
ADAM GREENMAN, president and CEO of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, is publisher of Jewish Rhode Island.