Rabbi's Weekly Teaching
Friday, January 11, 2013
The president of the University of Notre Dame, Father John Jenkins, wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal this week entitled: "Persuasion as the Cure for Incivility - What if, instead of demonizing opponents, we took steps to persuade them?"
Rather than living with a "stalemate" within a climate of incivility, we can challenge ourselves to speak effectively with the goal of actually changing someone's mind rather than emotionally repeating our own beliefs of "facts".
What can be helpful with controversial political agenda items within America is equally true within our own diverse American Jewish community.
Within the rabbinate I have attempted to follow the pastoral/preaching edict to "comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable". The highest compliment I ever receive by a congregant is "you persuaded me to think differently". The second highest compliment is "I understood and respected your view, but still disagree and this is why...."
Preaching to the choir may make the preacher feel good to see the nodding heads of affirmation, but serves little purpose. Also, attempting to "bully" one' views will never be successful within the spirit of "arguing for the sake of heaven".
As American Jews who love Israel, we need to figure out how to persuade. The rhetoric that often comes from Israel supporters is ineffective and even, at times, harmful to a love of Zionism. Let's attempt the possibility to build a case for Israel that allows for dissent on particular, yet crucial issues.
There are educational resources available for informed debate. I invite you to take a few minutes to research the issues, and begin the art of civil persuasion.
Some Web Sites for your consideration for effective Israel education and advocacy:
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
American Israel Public Affairs Committee
Myths and Facts
Palestinian Media Watch
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