’s office is located in Washington DC, and yesterday we were forced to end our editorial meeting early when armed white nationalists overran the U.S. Capitol as members were meeting to certify the results of the presidential election. Staff members needed to pick up children from day care and everyone had to be settled safely at home before the 6 p.m. curfew. It was shocking, but I wasn’t the least surprised by the violent turn of events—it was the logical result of Donald’s Trump’s fomenting of white nationalism since 2016 and four years of political turmoil. (I was surprised that federal law enforcement was not prepared for the onslaught, but that’s another story.)
What has happened in the last few days has everything to do with the theme of our new issue, “The Great American Reset.” Every four or eight years, the United States has the opportunity for a political reset. This resetting is one of the truly exceptional things about American democracy. We take it for granted, but the chance to bring in a different set of leaders is by no means inconsequential. Now, we have been harshly reminded that it is not as automatic as we have come to believe.
Sometimes, the reset is partial, a slight reconfiguration of leaders. This time, given the results of the Georgia senatorial run-off, it will be more dramatic. But it is not just leadership that needs to—and will—begin anew. Each one of us needs to do what we can to weave the country back together again, transcending paralyzing political polarization to build trust person to person. In my column in this issue, I suggest a few ways to do this.
We check in with American Jews to see what they are thinking: They have a lot to say about the state of the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as the nation. Sarah Posner dives into the danger of QAnon, which has rebooted anti-Semitism for the 21st century. (We saw the consequences of conspiracy theories such as QAnon in action yesterday.) Marshall Breger writes about how recent Supreme Court decisions permitting worship in churches and synagogues despite COVID-19 restrictions have drawn ultra-Orthodox Jews into a culture war that is “none of their business.”
We also explore the Jewish concept at the heart of heated discussions about worshiping, mask wearing, social distancing and even vaccinations: pikuach nefesh,
the principle in Jewish law that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule.
Five Iran experts—Mark Dubowitz, Chuck Freilich, Efraim Halevy, Dalia Dassa Kaye and Sharon Nazarian—weigh in on one of the major foreign policy challenges that the new administration will immediately face, and discuss—from different perspectives—whether the U.S. should revive the Iran deal, double down on sanctions or try something totally new.
We also explore another pressing issue: whether electronic surveillance threatens democracy; and our rabbis address the question of whether Jewish ethics permit unlimited electronic surveillance.
In “Lessons for the Future,” Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times
writer Tom Friedman hopes we can recover our “cognitive immunity,” a shared sense of the truth that defined us for so many years. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, author Max Brooks, German Ambassador to the U.S. Emily Haber and NPR’
s Michel Martin also share their thoughts. In “The Failure of Impartiality,” Robert Siegel reviews Barack Obama's Book, A Promised Land
There’s lightness in our new issue too. Did you know President-elect Biden’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's great-grandfather was famed Yiddish writer Meir Blinken? And there’s “Counting the Dead,” a lovely essay by author Judith Viorst. Plus all the fun features you rely on for relaxation: a Persian-inspired recipe for Purim, cartoon contest and Spice Box.
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—Nadine Epstein, Moment