The End of Rude: Did the Year of Civil Discourse make it easier to talk about Israel?

This article examines the results of the Year of Civil Discourse, a program dedicated to engaging nearly 1,000 people in grassroots trainings in at four synagogues over the course of 2011. From the article…

“The purpose was not to have people check their opinions at the door,” Porth added. “We wanted people to bring their passionately held views into the room, and give them the skills to have meaningful conversations about Israel. There was no political litmus test. The institutions all said they desperately needed this program because things had reached an untenable point.”

Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City was a typical case. The spectrum of political opinion on Israel ranged from the far left to the far right, said Rabbi Nathaniel Ezray, and though tensions rarely resulted in confrontations, the anger did bubble up.

“Below the surface, there was a feeling that the community propagated a more right-leaning point of view,” Ezray said. “People who leaned to the left felt they were not listened to; people on the right felt Israel was besieged. A core principal for me as a rabbi is there needed to be a lot more room for people to listen to each other.”

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