We live in perilous times. On the domestic stage, Americans continue to protest police violence. Around the world, terrorists continue to engage in horrific murderous acts like the Taliban’s recent rampage killing nearly 150 school children.
While such peril can and does easily lead to violent acts of retribution, attempts to justify torture, or on the personal level, sinking into depression, unless we choose to allow those who commit these horrific acts of unjustified violence to prevail, we must find ways to keep our sanity and allow the best parts of humanity to rise to the top.
At a basic level, if individuals, communities and nations are unable to talk with each other, then their ability to resolve grievances is severely compromised. Today, we finally see the end of a failed policy through which the United States refused to talk with Cuba, as President Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic relations after 50 years. While each nation continues to have grievances with each other, with normal diplomatic relations, the opportunity now exists to solve problems rather than exacerbate them.
In the Middle East, we have seen that the inability of Israel and the Palestinians to successfully negotiate a resolution of their longstanding grievances has fanned the flames of violent acts committed by extremists on both sides. The world watches anxiously as Israeli elections in March may determine whether a path towards a peaceful resolution can be achieved.
At the local level, I continue to work to engage in dialogue with whomever is willing on difficult topics. In the Jewish community, talking about Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians is a touchy subject, which splits friends and family. Fortunately, as I have written previously, there is a way to engage in safe & meaningful dialogue, through the methods developed by the Jewish Dialogue Group. Utilizing these methods of facilitated dialogue, I helped bring the Madison Jewish community together earlier this year for 3 such sessions co-sponsored by my own synagogue, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, Madison’s other two synagogues, Temple Beth El and the Beth Israel Center, the University of Wisconsin Hillel and the Jewish Federation of Madison. Each session had about 12 participants, including members of all 3 synagogues, as well as unaffiliated Jews. Feedback after the sessions was overwhelmingly positive with the only significant critique being that many wanted to participate in additional sessions.
Given that success and the desire for ongoing dialogue, with my coordination, these same 5 organizations came together to obtain an Innovation grant from the Jewish Federation of Madison which will allow us to convene dialogue sessions on a monthly basis throughout 2015. We will gear some sessions for those who have never participated in such a dialogue and other sessions for those who want to deepen their experience by participating in additional sessions. In addition, some sessions will target affinity groups, including young adults, college students, interfaith couples, Jewish institutional leadership and Camp Shalom staff.
The first 2 sessions are scheduled to take place at UW Hillel on:
- January 28th-7-9 PM for young adults (20-30 something); and
- February 12th-7-9 PM for college students.
Additional sessions will be announced in the coming weeks.
RSVPs are required and space is limited to 15 participants to ensure that all participants have a full chance to engage in meaningful dialogue. You can get more information and register by e-mailing: firstname.lastname@example.org .
From the local to the international, through dialogue, we can achieve peace & justice.
For more information on how Jeff Spitzer-Resnick can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change, visit his website: Systems Change Consulting.