THE JEWISH CENTER FOR COMMON GROUND

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DIVISION 4--CONFLICT RESOLUTION TRAINING AND INTERVENTION

Whether Jewish unity is threatened by a dispute in a synagogue or small community, or involves issues affecting greater numbers of people, it may not be long before an "us vs. them" dynamic develops, with each side seeking to discredit the other. In such an environment, those involved may not be able to prevent further damage even if they recognize it is mutually destructive. JCCG would seek to alleviate this problem in the following ways:

A) VOLUNTEER MEDIATORS

JCCG could create a team of volunteer mediators trained in conflict resolution techniques grounded in Jewish values. The mediators would come from different professions and backgrounds, increasing the likelihood that the parties involved could find a third party they could each respect. Unlike a Bet Din, a JCCG mediator would not have any legal or halachic authority to impose a solution on those involved. Thus, there would be less risk and greater willingness for the parties to utilize the resource at a time when their own efforts can be hindered by a variety of emotional, political and social pressures of the moment. Even if the mediator could not help the parties reach an agreement, he/she could minimize negative fallout and increase understanding and positive communication between those involved.

B) ONLINE/PHONE SUPPORT

This idea would involve a designated phone line and internet cite where those seeking to resolve a conflict or minimize disunity could seek information. Just as there are a number of "Ask the Rabbi" features on Jewish web cites where one can anonymously request information about Jewish law and practice, JCCG internet and phone support could perform a similar function with respect to conflict resolution.

C) MEDIATION RESOURCES FOR JEWISH LEADERSHIP

This program would seek to distribute relevant materials focusing on mediation/conflict resolution to leadership within synagogues and Jewish institutions. Its goal would be to help empower them in dealing with issues in a way which supports Jewish unity, and help to preempt escalation of people.

CONCLUSION

While the above outline for JCCG attempts to present specific programs to achieve its mission, like most new organizations, it could be viewed as a work in progress during its initial stages. However, the very establishment of JCCG itself could have an immediate impact by virtue of its singular, substantive focus on an issue that can often be neglected or marginalized amidst the many challenges facing the Jewish people.

There may not be easy answers for the many sources of division within the Jewish world. However, JCCG can strengthen a process of dealing with differences in a way which nurtures a deeper respect and love for the soul within each Jew. It can help prevent us from drowning in a multitude of labels, stereotypes and differences which too often divide our people. JCCG can be a critical resource to help keep the Jewish people focused on the ultimate common ground we all share -- a holy people striving to be a light unto the nations and bringing the world closer to G-d.

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