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Testimonials about Our Guidebook for Facilitators

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Right now I am in the middle of a project that involves facilitating dialogues within the Jewish community on some of the issues we find most controversial and divisive. This project is part of the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council’s visionary “Year of Civil Discourse” initiative. In approaching this work, “Constructive Conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” has been my go-to virtual colleague every step of the way! It has served as a wise and inspiring resource for facilitating thoughtful, inclusive conversations – and also as a nuts-and-bolts practical guide, including detailed suggestions and examples for convening groups, planning agendas, and addressing common concerns. I am grateful to be doing this challenging and important work in such good company.

 Mady Shumofsky, Oakland, CA

 


 

The Jewish Dialogue Group/Public Conversations Project Guidebook provided the ideal framework for the "Perspectives on Israel" conversation series at Yale Hillel. It allowed flexibility to adapt many of its suggestions to our unique student-led, student-focused group, while suggesting more structured ways to conduct the dialogue than I had previously explored. The Guidebook's recommendations helped us run respectful, interesting, insightful, and productive sessions in which students learned from each other, really listened to other points of view, and were able to get a better idea of where issues relating to Israel stand on our campus. Whereas the conversations had the potential to be contentious, the JDG's tools helped foster our already unusually respectful environment at Yale and focus our informal conversations into productive—and popular—dialogue sessions.

—Sarah Turbow, Yale University, Class of 2010

 



Constructive Conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is, as it is purported to be, an excellent "guide for convening and facilitating dialogue in Jewish communities in the US." We have used the material primarily for training conversation facilitators for our "Conversation Israel" dialogues, which focus on personal connections, expectations, and disappointments with Israel, and not specifically on the conflict focused discussion. Our facilitators-in-training have often expressed their satisfaction with the quality of the training material prepared by the Jewish Dialogue Group and the Public Conversations Project.

We all know how important it is to bring people of disparate views, Jews and non-Jews, together to discuss Israel, just as we know the multiple difficulties facing people and organizations that take on this challenge. In the absence of the proverbial magical wand, which apparently is not out there, this book is as good a preparation guide as we have ever found. Go forth and dialogue.

—Dr. Micha Balf, Former Education Shaliach
Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Partnership for Jewish Life & Learning

 



The Jewish Dialogue Group/Public Conversations Project handbook for convening and facilitating dialogue on Israeli/Palestinian issues is a landmark work and incredible resource for anyone wishing to compassionately and openly discuss this complex issue. The JDG/PCP approach puts the emphasis on Jewish values and personal relationship building, offering any group of any background a way of building community while dealing with an often difficult and polarizing subject. JDG has helped a number of Reconstructionist congregations to build trust and engage a broader spectrum of membership through the process outlined in the guide.

Rabbi Shawn Zevit
Director of Congregational Relations, Outreach & Tikkun Olam
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation




I cannot imagine a more useful, compelling, and insightful guide for this difficult but absolutely necessary dialogue.

Dr. Lawrence D. Lowenthal, Former Executive Director
American Jewish Committee, Boston Chapter

 



Last year, I downloaded Constructive Conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the guidebook co-written by the Jewish Dialogue Group and the Public Conversations Project. After reading through the well-written and informative guide, I was able to pull out different concepts, themes and strategies to integrate into the work we are doing across Canada. Indeed these materials have been adapted to facilitate conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Holocaust education and leadership development. Thanks to JDG's leadership and experience, Jewish dialogue groups (and sessions) in Canada have a model to which to strive. We look forward to continuing to work with the Jewish Dialogue Group in the future.

Ryla Braemer, B.A, M.ED.
Manager, Campus Initiatives
Canadian Academics for Peace in the Middle East

 



Thank you for your excellent guide, Constructive Conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. It couldn't have arrived at a better time! I had been wanting to convene dialogue in the Vancouver community on this issue, and your guide was like manna from heaven. If there is a question it doesn't answer about how to convene and facilitate such dialogues, then it's a question I haven't yet thought to ask. The guide covers everything from invitation to follow-through, and addresses every possible contingency that could arise during the dialogues.

We used the guide for a small, exploratory dialogue among six members of our community representing divergent viewpoints on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We also had the great advantage of having one of JDG's facilitators in town to co-facilitate our dialogue. We followed the suggestions in the guide pretty much to the letter, both in terms of the questions suggested and the process used. Everyone agreed that it created the space for a frank and respectful exchange of views. One participant said she found the dialogue "very inspiring and thought-provoking." Another, commenting on the process, said: "Everything was well designed to create safety, and given safety and a good structure, I feel most people could have a constructive dialogue across their differences. That seemed very hopeful to me."

Everyone present agreed that they would like to continue with a series of dialogues in the fall, and others in the community have also indicated their interest. I have every confidence that by following the ideas and processes outlined in the guide, we'll be able to negotiate this difficult topic with grace and respect, and heal some of the rifts that have arisen in our community over this issue.

—Avril Orloff, Ahavat Olam Synagogue
Vancouver, British Columbia

 



I've been very impressed with the work of the Jewish Dialogue Group. The guidebook for facilitators that they and Public Conversations Project have put together has been very helpful in guiding my congregation's dialogue process on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They give a lot of attention to group dynamics, ground rules, and structuring a conversation so that people feel safe. The conversation that we created was reflective and growthful, and we were all inspired by the process.

—Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman
Congregation Shaarei Shamaym, Madison, WI

 



I have found that methods suggested by the Jewish Dialogue Group and the Public Conversations Project have made safe space possible for highly sensitive conversations between Jews from all over the political spectrum. I facilitate dialogue among politically and religiously diverse groups of Jews while they are in the West Bank encountering Palestinian realities, usually for the first time; the potential for mutual and explosiveness is high. JDG provided us with tools to create a structured conversation that can hold all of the conflicting emotions and perspectives that arise in participants. With JDG's help, participants better understand the ways their views are rooted in their own personal stories, and feel comfortable enough to open themselves to others' views in unexpected and often transformative ways.

Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, Co-Director of Encounter

 



In co-creating NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership for Change, which is a joint project between Progressive Jewish Alliance and Muslim Public Affairs Council that brings together Los Angeles-area Muslims and Jews to build meaningful and constructive relationships, I have again and again utilized resources from Jewish Dialogue Group and Public Conversations Project. Their materials and guides are accessible and adaptable for diverse communities that are wrestling with difference and conflict on a local, national, and international level. Specifically, I have used Constructive Conservations about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict as well as Constructive Conservations about Challenging Times. The crux of the power of these resources is the emphasis on inclusion and good process; it makes room for everyone to sit at the proverbial "table" together and have a voice to speak and to listen. I am grateful for PCP and JDG's generous contribution to NewGround as well as the field of dialogue and conflict resolution and transformation.

—Malka Haya Fenyvesi, Co-Director
New Ground: Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, Los Angeles

 



With the help of Jews in the community, as well as the guidebook for facilitators, Constructive Conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, developed by the Jewish Dialogue Group and the Public Conversations Project, I held a small dialogue at my college. About 10 people were present, all Jewish, and a mix between students and members of the community. It was an interesting mix of people because they were coming from totally different places with huge differences in experiences around this issue. We started by introducing each other, going over rules, etc. Then, in a circle, the participants went around and talked about their connection with Israel and why this issue is important for them. Next, we did a popcorn style response in which people reflected on what resonated with them from what others said, what they felt uncomfortable with, and other personal reactions. The last thing we did was talk about personal future steps. Most people agreed they wanted to learn more about the issue.

What struck me the most about the dialogue was how open people were and how quickly a safe space was established. People took it seriously and I feel like it ended on a hopeful note. One aspect of the dialogue that was particularly significant was that its structure forced all parties to listen to those with different politics and world views. This dialogue was exciting to me because it helped all involved realize that a calm, meaningful conversation about Israel/ Palestine could take place. (read more)

—Elise Goldin
Macalester College, Minnesota, Class of 2010

 


 

This summer, I used the Jewish Dialogue Group/Public Conversations Project guidebook to co-lead a dialogue program in my synagogue. What does it mean to love Israel? Does it mean to stand vigilant, or is there room for questioning? Where does my experience of Israel fit in? What is it about this piece of Holy Land that binds us? The dialogue process provides an opportunity to fearlessly ponder these questions and others. By allowing a safe space to show ourselves more fully to one another, we increase rather than divide congregational unity. The act of communicating sincerely takes time and trust and commitment; it is sacred, a mitzvah. One session, however, is just a beginning; our Social Action steering committee could not resist programming more. Many thanks to the Jewish Dialogue Group--the guidebook is a wonderful resource, providing user-friendly instructions from convening to pre-screening to facilitating, along with Jewish texts to support the process. My hope is that the work of JDG continues to ripple throughout our community.

—(Kohenet)Yocheved Landsman
dialogue co-facilitator, Congregation Bonai Shalom, Boulder, CO



 

Our temple’s Social Action Committee has been aspiring for quite a while to promote respectful conversations within the congregation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A breakthrough occurred when we were introduced to Constructive Conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the guidebook published by the Jewish Dialogue Group and the Public Conversations Project. The guidebook’s comprehensive and easy-to-follow format allowed us to hold a structured dialogue among our own congregants in fall 2010, with more than 50 congregants participating, and ten volunteer facilitators leading small groups. We received very positive feedback from the participants, who told us how much they valued having a respectful and engaging conversation. We left with the feeling that there is so much we can learn from each other, provided we are willing to listen with open hearts and open minds.

We are now in the process of organizing small, ongoing groups using the same model. We hope that with more experience in these conversations, people will recognize that there is no need for silence and members of our community will become closer and more willing to talk with each other in the months and years to come. Constructive Conversations describes this model for dialogue so clearly and in such detail, with such a range of options to choose from, that it continues to be an invaluable training tool and reference for our facilitators and participants. (read more)

Irene Butter, Marian Cohen, and Ed Davidson
Temple Beth Emeth, Ann Arbor, Michigan



 

This past spring, we held three Jewish dialogue sessions in the Leeds Jewish community (in the North of England). The participants were leaders from the three mainstream branches of Judaism. This was the first time that such a program took place in our community. The facilitator guidebook published by the Jewish Dialogue Group and the Public Conversations Project, along with advice from JDG, made it possible for us initiate this new conversation.

In the past, it has been very difficult to discuss anything about Israel when there are significant differences. This has spurred some of the leaders to initiate these discussions. As one participant said, “For fourteen years I have skirted any meaningful discussions when it comes to Israel. This is true even for my closest friends. We just avoid the issue.”

The structured conversations that we created using the Jewish Dialogue Group's materials and suggestions changed all that. It gave the participants permission to disagree while preventing the destructive arguments that so often occur. I don’t know if the dialogues changed anyone’s mind about the issues, but they enabled us to begin to understand one another and created a foundation for further conversation. Those who participated were grateful for the opportunity and have expressed an interest in future dialogue events. We look forward to continuing this effort in the coming months.

Yaakov Atik
Organizational Consultant, Leeds, England


 
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