Ariana Mentzel (34), a Democrat from Beverly Hills, MI, leads college students in conversations about anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the Detroit Center for Civil Discourse. Named one of Detroit Jewish News’ “36 under 36,” she serves as the vice president Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Mentzel also served as former Oakland County Chair of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus. She runs a preschool Shabbat program at her temple.
We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.
What are your reactions to the protests occurring across the country? I completely understand the visceral need to be heard. Seeking justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others and calling for an end to police brutality are causes worth fighting for.
What are your reactions to the looting, curfews and the police response of pepper spray, rubber bullets and arrests? Looting is a separate issue from protests. It’s a huge distraction from the issues at hand. Curfews make sense for residential areas for public safety and quiet for young families. Pepper spray is cruel at a protest. Right-wing extremists protesting at the Michigan capital with guns and literally screaming in police faces do not get pepper-sprayed so it’s not right that it would be used on peaceful protestors. Arrests are made quickly at a protest but take so long in cases like Ahmaud Arbery. The priorities of the legal and justice system make me sad.
What do you think about the call to “defund” police departments? It’s an idea to be discussed, however, I tend to lean more moderate and look for compromise first. Maybe some police funds can be reallocated and redistributed for new policies that would benefit the community and in the long run, make the police budget smaller.
Have you participated in any demonstrations? Please tell us about your experience. I have attended about a dozen webinars, completed a 6-hour anti-racist training and am organizing a local virtual community event on anti-racism, civility, and community with our State Representative, a social worker, and Southfield Chief of Police.
How do you think the president has handled this crisis? How has Joe Biden handled this crisis? Trump is an agitator and spokesman for fascist thinking and brutality. He is unequivocally horrible. Joe Biden is slowly speaking up and showing up now.
Have the events that have taken place over the last week changed your views on the upcoming Presidential election? I was voting for Joe Biden before and my decision is reaffirmed by recent events.
Do you think recent events will push people to one candidate or the other? I hope so. I see Biden as a good Democratic candidate because he can appeal to moderate Republicans. It’s still a stretch, but given the alternative – Trump – the Republicans that value peace, justice, and truth ought to be pushed to vote Biden this November.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us? White Jewish support for our black family and neighbors is needed again like it was when the NAACP was founded and during the Civil Rights Movement. We are obligated to support them however we can.