Posted on March 20, 2013 by Shoshana Rosen
On the 9th of Adar, the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution (PCJCR) sponsored its first annual Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict. According to the Shulchan Aruch, this was the day that the arguments of Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai deteriorated from a respectful difference of opinion into violence. Rabbi Daniel Roth prepared sources for the day, which was observed in numerous venues around the globe.
At Pardes, alumna Malka Landau (Kollel ’00-’02) facilitated a workshop in which the entire student body practiced skills of deep listening, asking open questions, and mirroring, essential elements in constructive dialogue. After the workshop, students broke into discussion groups where they had the opportunity to hone these skills. When I looked around the beit midrash during the constructive dialogue workshop, I had a huge smile on my face. From the first time I stepped foot in Pardes, I had a vision of how it could truly be a place to explore and celebrate our diversity. And after months of hard work, here it was coming to fruition.
The success of the dialogue workshop was a result of many student-initiated meetings about diversity and about how to have hard conversations. Even though some of the issues we have been grappling with are very hard to discuss, we are committed to the conversation. We have a sense that we’ll never again live in such a diverse Jewish community, and therefore we want to take full advantage of the opportunity. This type of diversity breeds conflict but if we can engage the conflict constructively, our diversity will sprout incredible creativity and inspiration.
One of the most powerful parts of the Day of Constructive Conflict program was the student role play, in which students acted out real-life difficult scenarios which members of our community had struggled with at some point this year. With the help of a professional facilitator, we got to envision these flash points afresh, practicing tools for understanding each other better.
I am grateful to my Pardes community for engaging difficult conversations and embracing our diversity. The tools we are gaining here will continue to serve us as we go on to be teachers and leaders in our future communities.