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The problem with dialogue

One of the stated aims of New Jewish Thought is to improve the quality of dialogue between Jews. This is no easy task. Few Jews enjoy the bitterness that arises from communal divisions, but few Jews wish to abandon their own principles even in the pursuit of better intra-communal relations. The task becomes particularly tricky when the views of other Jews are seen as threatening the existential or physical safety of other Jews. How then do we build a Jewish community in which individual Jews can still retain their beliefs while at the same time enjoying mutually respectful relations with Jews who do not share them?

Perhaps one starting point is to examine the barriers to and limitations of dialogue. Most people have ‘red lines’ beyond which dialogue with an other is seen as compromising one’s integrity. For some, the red lines encompass a very broad area, for others a narrow one. One project that New Jewish Thought will pursue will be to seek the views of a range of Jews as to where their own red lines are.

As a first step, we will look close to home:

In 2006, New Jewish Thought won a small grant from the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Enterprise (LCACE) to run a conference on Jewish music in conjunction with City University and Goldsmiths College. The conference was intended to take place in June 2007 and a planning committee was set up. Planning was well underway when Ruth Rosenfelder, Visiting Lecturer in Jewish Studies within the Department of Music, City University, pulled out of the project as a consequence of another member of the committee, Keith Kahn-Harris of Goldsmiths College, signing the Independent Jewish Voices declaration in February 2007. As a result of Ruth Rosenfelder’s withdrawal, our funding was withdrawn and the conference never took place.

As part of our commitment to ‘go the extra mile’ in the pursuit of better intra-communal relations, we have invited Ruth Rosenfelder to explain her decision to withdraw from the conference project....> View article

Keith Kahn-Harris has responded to her article....> View article

Clearly, no easy resolution to these divisions was possible. But at the very least, we have shown that it is possible for those involved in communal disagreements are able to discuss their differences in a calm and respectful manner. 

September 2007


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