Since November 2010, Chicago Public Radio and the Illinois Humanities Council has been producing a series of interviews called “Ask Me Why.” Inspired by StoryCorps: National Day of Listening, the project features pairs of individuals who disagree on an issue, taking turns asking each other questions in order to better understand each other and their position.
We found pairs of people who know each other but who disagree on an issue and asked if we could record their conversation on the issue – but with a bit of a twist. We told our pairs they couldn’t debate, argue or challenge a point. They could only take turns asking each other questions, and listening to the answers. The goal would be, not to make a point or counterpoint, but to better understand why the other person thinks the way they do. What personal experiences shaped their opinion on this issue? Did they always have this opinion and if not, what changed their mind on the issue? Where do they get information that guides their opinion on the issue?
Perhaps you too have grown weary of the shouting matches, rancor and recriminations that characterize much of the public debate on contemporary issues. While we aren’t claiming to single-handedly remedy that, we’re hoping that Ask Me Why can serve as a reminder that thoughtful deliberation and disagreement involves not just making your point, but listening to and understanding those with whom you disagree.
The latest “Ask Me Why” interview” features a conversation between me and Boris Furman, a longtime friend and a congregant at JRC. Boris and I agreed to take on the rather charged question: is a Jewish state essential to the future security and well being of the Jewish people?
The final five minute program is only a tiny fraction of our hour-long conversation. Although our actual interview was quite wide-ranging, producer Robin Amer really did a nice job of paring the conversation down to its essence. The final version highlights the more personal moments in which we share a bit about our own Jewish identities and what we believe it means to be a Jew in a post-Holocaust world.
Click here to give a listen. It’s obviously only a small taste of a much longer conversation, but I hope at least it might help to provide a model of civil, respectful Jewish discourse on a profoundly painful issue.