Tapping into today’s ethical dilemmas — over a drink

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Jé Hooper and Bill Lewis make an unconventional pair. Lewis is a retired electrician-turned-volunteer, donning glasses and a southern accent, while Hooper is a millennial-aged leader in training, always wearing a bright smile. 

However, this partnership seems to work well once a month when they talk ethics over a pint at An Beal Bocht.

It’s called  “Ethics on Tap,” and it’s actually an outreach program of the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture. Hooper and Lewis started the meetings two years ago at the West 238th Street pub, inviting the public to discuss topics related to ethics, or other ideas weighing on people’s minds.

“I love the fact that Bill and I, we vary in age, we vary in our unique diversities and particularities, but I think it speaks a lot to how ethics works and how to gather information and put it out there in a variety of different contexts.” Hooper said.

The June meeting didn’t exactly draw a crowd — just one person. But that’s the summer, Lewis said. Usually there is a good mix of people who attend.

“We have people from young parents to millennials to people who are retired,” Lewis added.

Typical meetings draw between five and 10 people. However, it’s not just the number of people — or who they are — Lewis said, but about being present for each other.

The idea stemmed from Hooper’s internship at Middle Collegiate Church on Second Avenue. There, he experienced a session that not only involved alcohol, but also theological discussions.

“Once I got involved with Ethical Culture, I really wanted to see — because we are such a liberal and progressive space of thinkers — what it would be like to have a drink,” Hooper said. “We started guessing names, and Bill looked at me, and was like, ‘Ethics on Tap.’ 

“It was different. We look at the consistency and some of the things that have happened, and it’s beautiful to realize that people are able to engage, instead of only thinking that these types of meaningful conversations might only be within your family, or in your church, or with a close friend. It’s really awesome to have that.”

Peggy Millstone didn’t mind being the only attendee at the recent “Ethics on Tap.” 

She’s lived in the neighborhood 23 years, and found the group on Meetup.com back when it first began.

“I like meeting people who have the same values, and I would never intersect with them if we didn’t have this one event.” Millstone said. “Without ‘Ethics on Tap,’ I would have never have had the opportunity to meet Bill or Jé or Jone, who is Bill’s wife, if it weren’t for this. I was so happy when I found it.”

Topics at the June meeting ranged from the controversial jacket Melania Trump wore on a recent visit to the Mexico border, to Facebook fundraisers, to more casual topics, such as funny stories about celebrities and casual chat about their kids.

The group had an intimate sense of familiarity, as Lewis and Millstone smiled and raised their respective glasses in a cheer. The meeting took place on the upper level of the café, surrounded by eclectic knick-knacks and paintings by local artist Ayde Rayas.

It lasted a little under 90 minutes, when Lewis and Millstone bid adieu until next month. “Ethics on Tap” meets the third Thursday of every month at An Beal, 445 W. 238th St. The next meeting is set for July 19 at 7 p.m. The only cost is what you drink.

“I think it works because when people can’t make it to the society, ‘Ethics on Tap’ is their moment of community and sanctuary for them,” Hooper said. “And that’s big.”

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