Periodically, I review the history of this series, rather like looking at an old picture album. (And yes, I am of an age when I still think of physical albums.) I look at where we have been and where we are, and try to gain some perspective.
The series was started at Street Prophets when thefatladysings asked if it was a regular series. I actually had been writing an occasional d'var Torah for some time before that, but the idea of a series got some support, and here we are. I wrote the diaries for the first few weeks, but gradually other writers volunteered. Sometimes we also posted over here, and then, when DK4 got started with groups and all, we formed Elders of Zion (the name that got the most votes - irony won the day).
At Street Prophets our audience was limited to interested people, Jewish, Christian, animist, atheist or whatever. At DK, of course, the audience was wider, and some of the discussions focused on whether we had any business on a political/Democratic website.
Religion and progressivism have always had connections, and some of those leaders of various movements have been motivated by religion. After pointing this out a few times, we have seen these comments stop, except when someone new discovers us. Our way of dealing with this and with other interruptions has always been to invite people in and involve them in the discussions. Some have stayed, some have gone.
I was ready to end the series not so long ago, after many of our Jewish writers had left DK over what they felt was unaddressed anti-semitism, and I found myself writing some three or four diaries in a row. Navy Vet Terp, with the help of quarkstomper, kept it going. For the first time we had writers, as well as readers, who were not Jewish . Some years ago, someone asked if non-Jews could write for the series. My answer then was maybe, if they kept to the text and could connect with Jewish thinking. Anyone who has read the diaries of quarkstomper and Eowyn9 can see that this development has been almost completely positive.
I think our readers have realized that we treat everyone with respect. We also expect commenters to be respectful of each other. Things occasionally get a little heated, but when you combine politics and religion, that will happen. Sometimes things get personal.
Navy Vet Terp and I are the only administrators remaining since several others left.
Coordinating a series is not easy, as anyone who has tried it can tell you. When the series is about something as touchy as religion it gets even harder. Our Jewish writers are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Revisionist, and secular, with varying degrees of observance and knowledge. Add non-Jews to the mix, and you can get some very strong feelings. But we continue to be inclusive and respectful.
Recently the two of us have been receiving complaints from some group members who feel discussions have become too heated, and want us to do something about it. We have discussed it with each other and with them, but we cannot continue to do so even though we take all your concerns seriously. We always monitor the comment threads, which can continue for days, and we will respond to abuses as we deem necessary. Neither of us has the time for ongoing discussion beyond what goes on in the threads. If you express concerns there, we will respond.
We will continue to be inclusive overall. We have never had to use hide-ratings to resolve problems, and have no plans to start. We want everyone to feel safe, but still find that if things get too heated, the best solution is to walk away, either physically or figuratively.
Parsha Yitro was the first parsha after we officially began as a series, so Parsha Yitro this year will mark four years since that Shabbat. It was my adult Bat Mitzvah parsha a year before, and a year later, thefatladysings' son posted his Bar Mitzvah speech. I am so pleased that the series continues, and thank you all for keeping it going.