The Shirat Hayam Synagogue’s recent educational forum on impeachment was as impressive as it was surprising.
What a great idea, and one that we haven’t seen offered by other inherently nonpartisan and nonpolitical community organizations around the country.
Rabbi Gordon L. Geller said political accusations and counterattacks that fill hours on TV news shows seem to have left people “confused as to what are the essential main issues and facts” about impeachment. So his Ventnor synagogue decided to host a panel to help its members and others understand its history and process.
This seems to be the age of impeachment, so more understanding of it is much needed. The first and for two centuries the only U.S. presidential impeachment — an unsuccessful attempt to remove President Andrew Johnson — occurred after the Civil War. Now we’ve had three in the last 45 years. If they’re going to be that common, American society and the body politic better get good at handling them with the least damage to the nation.
Shirat Hayam invited Democratic and Republican representatives to present at the forum and Augie Nigro, a professor of history and U.S. government at Atlantic Cape Community College, to lead the event.
One goal of the forum was to help people distinguish between reliable information and disinformation, Nigro said, and see how the current impeachment of President Donald Trump could affect them and government.
Geller said the forum helped fulfill the congregation’s social action responsibility — hearing from the major political parties and helping “conscientious citizens to understand what’s going on” regardless of their political affiliation, if any.
The need for and value of the impeachment forum was evident in the turnout of 50 people — an unqualified success for such an event that delivers light without much entertaining heat.
We hope the forum sets an example for productive public consideration of divisive, challenging issues.
Even more reassuring than the synagogue’s educational effort on impeachment would be a forum advancing an understanding of the era of President Trump, from his nomination through his election and to the end of his presidency — and maybe a bit beyond.
For that to even be possible, the actions of all of the principals during the Trump years will need to be better known. The people presenting at such a forum or availing themselves of its analysis will need the ability to see from wide and seemingly conflicting perspectives, and a desire to appreciate them all fairly.
That will take time, maybe quite a bit, but it sure will be welcome when it’s possible.