THE JEWISH CENTER
FOR COMMON GROUND
DIVISION 2--EDUCATION FOR UNITY
While Jews may agree that unity is of extreme importance, many lack
the knowledge and skills to actualize that goal in day to day life.
Education for Unity would offer information that empowers Jews to improve
relationships and constructively deal with differences. Programs could
A) Jewish Books for Peace
This is an existing program of Aish HaTorah NY which could be integrated
into JCCG. The program has sponsored distribution of free books and
other materials focusing on themes of Jewish unity, and encouraged recipients
to share these ideas with others. The goal is to increase awareness
of books such as those by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin ("Kindness",
"Harmony with Others") and articles by writers such as Dovid
Lieberman, Miriam Adahan, Rabbi Abraham Twerski and others. Such writers
have demonstrated an ability to present Torah based values on interpersonal
relationships in a manner which appeals to Jews of all backgrounds.
B) Jewish Unity Pledge
JCCG would seek to develop a set of principles which individuals and
institutions agree to support as a public affirmation to Jewish unity.
Such a Pledge could include a commitment to dialogue with another Jew
or institution on an issue of contention before raising the issue in
public; a presumption that Jews with whom we disagree are acting in
good faith in what they perceive is in the best interests of our people;
a willingness to utilize mediation and other forms of third party facilitation
to resolve disputes; and a commitment to proactive measures to increase
unity among the Jewish people such as those discussed in Division 1
of this proposal.
C) Jewish Unity Clearinghouse
Utilizing the internet, JCCG would seek to create a forum in which programs
enhancing Jewish unity are publicized. This could include the work of
existing organizations in the field such as Gesher and Common Denominator,
as well as individual initiatives that take place in one's community.
In this way, JCCG could create a more cohesive and effective group of
individuals and institutions supporting and informing each other to
maximize our impact.
DIVISION 3--JEWISH MEDIA REFORM FOR UNITY
While newspapers, radio, television, internet, etc. are essential resources
to keep the Jewish community informed and connected, they can also be
a source of disunity and exacerbate existing divisions between us. This
can include Jews and Jewish institutions publicly condemning each other,
impugning each other's motives, and speading hurtful speech (lashon
hora). In addition, the nature of most reporting is to present issues
in a "he said/she said" style focusing on differences, rather
than on the common ground which those involved in a controversy may
JCCG is not advocating a media which ignores problems or controversial
issues affecting the Jewish people. Rather, it seeks to more fully integrate
the value of Jewish unity into the editorial decision-making process
of media professionals. Programs supporting this goal could include:
A) Media Working Groups
This would involve rabbis, media professionals, and interested lay people
meeting to discuss ways in which the need for Jewish unity could be
achieved without com-promising journalistic integrity. The result could
include a series of recommendations which could be integrated into the
way the media treats potentially divisive issues. For example, guidelines
could be developed that encourage a greater use of conciliatory/moderate
quotes when reporting a story rather than publishing more imflammatory
comments which create polarization.
B) Media Monitoring
A related program would establish an independent "watch dog"
committee seeking to hold Jewish media accountable for practices which
unnecessarily fan conflict and disunity. A model for this program could
be based on the way in which groups such as CAMERA and HonestReporting.Com
make the public and media professionals aware of anti-Israel bias in
Ideally, the JCCG program would be able to work behind the scenes with
different media outlets to resolve such concerns in a spirit of cooperation
rather than confrontation. The end result could be an increased awareness
and sensitivity to what might be called "anti-Jewish unity"
bias in the media.
C) Speakers and Writers Bureau
Chances are, when a reporter wants to find a source to present a particular
viewpoint on an issue, he or she can turn to an organization which advocates
that view and seek its perspective. In addition, such organizations
can send out speakers to present this perspective in synagogues and
other venues, or write Op-Ed pieces to bring its position to the public.
In that context, JCCG would seek to become a "go to" resource
promoting the value of Jewish unity and constructive conflict resolution.
When a dispute arises, reporters could quote not only the two (or more)
opposing sides and their position on the specific conflict. It could
also contact JCCG for a perspective that focuses on the broader implications
of Jewish unity which could be affected, and possible solutions to deal
with this threat. Similarly, respected writers and speakers could advocate
perspectives to the public focusing on ways in which Jewish unity can
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