THE JEWISH CENTER FOR COMMON GROUND

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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 include:

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 share.

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 its reporting.

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 be protected.

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