New Israel info education program - centered around argument circles - receives $1.1m.

The approach involves creating workshops that encourage collaborative discussions when arguments regarding Israel’s complexities arise. 

 A flock of common swifts flying near an Israeli flag in Jerusalem (photo credit: AMIR EZER)
A flock of common swifts flying near an Israeli flag in Jerusalem
(photo credit: AMIR EZER)

Innovative Jewish educators Abi Dauber Sterne and Robbie Gringas have taken on a new approach to learning about Israel: Argument circles.

Now, with the help of a  $1.1 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, For the Sake of Argument (FSA)’s pilot program will give Dauber Sterne and Gringas the opportunity to achieve successful execution of the program among Jewish community groups across the world. 

The approach involves creating workshops that encourage collaborative discussions when arguments regarding Israel’s complexities arise. 

“We embrace arguments as a powerful tool for getting to know ourselves, each other, and the issues we’re discussing more deeply,” reads their mission statement.

Arguing both sides

Grant recipients Abi Dauber Sterne and Robbie Gringras. (credit: FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT (FSA))Grant recipients Abi Dauber Sterne and Robbie Gringras. (credit: FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT (FSA))

The Jim Joseph Foundation — a private organization that supports Jewish education among youth and young adult groups — aims to “help all Jews, their families, and their friends lead connected, meaningful, purpose-filled lives and to make positive contributions to their communities,” according to its mission statement. 

“Abi Dauber Sterne and Robbie Gringras have a timely, important vision to create a new multidimensional learning model for Israel education,” commented Steven Green, Senior Director at the Jim Joseph Foundation.

“Abi Dauber Sterne and Robbie Gringras have a timely, important vision to create a new multidimensional learning model for Israel education.”

Steven Green, Senior Director at the Jim Joseph Foundation

“This trust-based approach is about engaging young learners in authentic, deeply meaningful conversations around Israel based on disagreements that acknowledge a diversity of perspectives. The Foundation is pleased to support their efforts.”

Dauber Sterne, a religious Jewish American-Israeli, is the current director of Makom: Israel Education Lab of the Jewish Agency for Israel. She previously served as vice-president of Jewish Education at Hillel International for seven years and is the founder of Limmud NY — an organization that creates spaces to build and strengthen Jewish communities. 

Dauber has reflected on her and Gringas’ roles as innovative Jewish teachers. “As educators, our instincts are to create environments in which we agree,” she said. “Ironically, disagreement and argument hold within them exactly the energy and passion that we, as a community of educators, should seek to engender.” 

Gringas, a secular British-Israeli, is a theater performer, inspirational speaker, and teacher. He was the director of a theater company in London’s vibrant West End district and has since taken on a variety of educational roles, such as creative director of Makom, while continuing to pursue writing and theater. 

“Today’s society shines away from disagreement, but Jewish tradition strongly encourages it as a way of reaching understanding, if not consensus,” he stated. 

FSA was initially formulated at the Jewish Agency’s Makom: The Israel Education Lab with support from the Jim Joseph Foundation. The publication of Stories for the Sake of Argument, a collection of short stories written by Dauber Sterne and Gringas, was the first stage of the project. 

The stories, which “emerged from a realization that the field of Israel education has changed” according to FSA’s website, touch on complex issues regarding Israel and the modern Jewish world. The book also includes tools and questions to incentivize healthy group discussions while reducing fears surrounding difficult conversations on Israel. 

Where is the money going?

The two-year grant will further support Dauber Sterne and Gringas in their research on how to use arguments to build valuable connections to Israel and strengthen the acceptance of diverse opinions among Jewish communities. 

“Arguments today are too often perceived as destructive and aggressive. We often avoid discussing the issues that are most important to us, for fear of causing discomfort,” said Gringras. “But growth cannot take place without disagreement.”

Dauber Sterne, who has dedicated her career to adding value to people’s Jewish lives, recognized the value that the grant will have in continuing her and Gringas’ innovative project. “We are so grateful that the Jim Joseph Foundation will be supporting this project in this research and pilot phase as they too seek to address the challenges facing our field.”