I was a big fan of the recent Heineken commercial. Not because I like Heineken — it is actually one of my least favorite beers — but the message of the commercial really resonated with me.
For those who haven’t seen it, the commercial featured a social experiment bringing together people who held strong opinions on some of contemporary society’s most divisive issues. They were all strangers, and prior to meeting each pair was videotaped, separately, expressing their opposing views.
Next, the viewer watched the pairs meet and engage in a variety of physical tasks and puzzles that required them to work together to overcome them. It was evident that they were bonding during these exercises and were demonstrating signs of mutual respect.
Then came the intense part: they were shown the videos of their counterpart expressing his or her opposing views, and soon each individual realized that the person with whom they were bonding just a moment ago held a starkly different conviction on a topic he or she felt strongly about, be it climate change, feminism, or gender and identity issues.
After the videos were over, a voice announced: “You now have a choice. You can go, or you can discuss your differences over a beer.” There was an awkward tension in the room, but in each case the pairs agreed to stay and discuss their differences. They engaged in civil conversation, and one person even admitted that he was raised in a black and white world but is now realizing that the world is not necessarily that way. At the end of the commercial, one gets the sense that the participants will leave the experience with more respect for views that differ from their own, just from the simple humanizing experience of contact, cooperation, and communication.
How many of us would have agreed to stay and engage in that conversation? How many of us are willing to discuss our differences and listen to our counterparts who hold differing views from us? How many of us are interested in viewpoints besides our own? We’ve gotten some great feedback thus far from our reader survey, launched the week after Pesach to gauge your thoughts on our content so far. Our aim is for this paper to serve as a vehicle for sharing the diverse views and perspectives within the Jewish community. Check out the survey at www.kolhabirah.com to have your voice be heard and join us at the table.