These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Rodef Shalom course

Posted on April 30, 2012 by Dr. J. Golden

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I first learned about this wonderful program through the Pardes newsletter.  I was in Brazil at the time and had already missed the first class, but I immediately wrote to see if it would still be possible for me to join the course.  I also invited my M.A. student, Joshua Barer, to enroll in the course as well.  I am a professor of Religious Studies and Anthropology at Drew University; at Drew I am also Associate Director of the Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict, and Hillel Director.  In all of my roles at Drew, and as a member of the local (and global?) community, I am deeply involved with peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts.  Much of this work is focused on interfaith and inter-cultural endeavors.  And so when I saw an opportunity to learn more about what my own faith has to say about conflict resolution, I jumped at the opportunity. 

The course, led by Jonah Geffen, has not disappointed.  In fact, it has exceeded my expectations.  Since there were two of us – Josh and I – first joining the course on the second session, Jonah had everyone redo the introductions.  I was immediately impressed with the range of backgrounds that the participants represented: educators, professionals, young community leaders.  And it only got better when I saw and heard what they all were bringing to the table.  There is always something special about adults, with their various vocations, that go out of their way to seek ongoing education.

The composition of the student body in this case is crucial as we learn in a discussion format, breaking into groups to read the texts and grappling with then in small groups before rejoining the larger group for further discussion.  Jonah does an outstanding job allowing the students to discover things for themselves and then guiding the discussion at the end.  Ultimately, Jonah shares his own thoughts on the meaning of the texts, but not until everyone else has had a chance to contribute their own inferences and interpretations.   I have found the insights and ideas of all the participants, and especially Jonah, to be enlightening and inspiring.  In fact, Josh and I regularly spend the whole train ride home continuing the discussion from class.

Overall, my reaction is simply, “wow”. I came into the Pardes Rodef Shalom course in order to immerse myself in the wisdom of the Jewish tradition in the area of conflict resolution and have found just that: wisdom, inspiration, and that uplifting feeling that I am leaving each class with great answers, and even more questions.

Below, Josh shares his own impression of the Rodef Shalom course:

I am currently piloting a Masters program at Drew University in Peace and Conflict Studies with Jonathan Golden as my advisor. I focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and majored in Jewish Studies in my undergraduate years, but I have never before encountered in such depth the ways in which the great thinkers of Jewish history tackled the difficult task of peacebuilding. The lessons that I have learned in the Pardes Rodef Shalom course will certainly stick with me throughout my studies and my life as an aspiring peacemaker.