(Left) Male haredi worshipers heckle members of Women of the Wall during a Rosh Hodesh service next to the Western Wall Plaza in July 2013..
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
More than 150 organizations worldwide across religious and political divides will be participating in the Pardes Institute’s initiative for establishing this Saturday, the Hebrew date of 9 Adar, as the Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict.
This is the third year the Pardes Institute’s Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution will stage the project, the purpose of which is to create respectful and peaceful debate on the issues that divide Jewish communities around the world.
“Now, more than ever, there is a need to strengthen our Jewish culture of healthy and constructive disagreements both for the sake of Heaven and for the sake of democracy,” said Rabbi Dr. Daniel Roth, director of the Pardes Institute’s Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution and adjunct professor at Bar-Ilan University’s Conflict Resolution Program.
“There is a growing feeling, in both Israel and around the world, that too many of our disagreements are stuck, strictly personal, and generally intractable, leading to wider and deeper social rifts.
Disagreements when managed constructively, however, are at the core of ensuring healthy and dynamic relationships, communities and cultures,” said Roth.
The initiative commemorates the little-known events of 9 Adar, sometime between 66 and 70 CE, when the initially constructive “disagreements for the sake of Heaven” between the two Talmudic schools of thought – Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai – morphed temporarily into violent conflict, resulting, according to some sources, in the death of 3,000 students.
While the day was declared a fast day, it was never commemorated as such and, says Roth, the day has taken on an additional meaning in Israel this year because of the election on March 17.
Individuals and organizations are commemorating the day in numerous ways, including abstaining from destructive speech and gossip, studying and teaching, and “practicing constructive conflict in personal, workplace and communal relationships.”
In North America, hundreds of university students will be engaging in deep conversations around the question of how to disagree through Hillel International’s AskBigQuestions campaign.
“A day dedicated to respectful, thoughtful disagreement fits right in line with our mission, and reflects the work that we do on campus and in the world at large every day,” said Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, director of education at ABQ.
In addition, Jewish day schools across the US are participating as part of the Pardes Rodef Shalom school program, while several North American organizations that focus on facilitating constructive conversations around Israel are also supporting the day; such as the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, The Israel Talks and Encounter.
Thousands of Israeli students will be participating in the day as part of their preparation for the upcoming elections through the Yesodot Center for Torah and Democracy and the Be’eri program, part of the Hartman Institute.
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