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A Historic Progressive Conservative Congregation in Valley Village, CA
A Dynamic Jewish Early Childhood Center Serving Children Ages 6 Weeks to Entering Pre-K
A Jewish Day School serving students in Grades TK-6
A Historic Progressive Conservative Congregation in Valley Village, CA

Resetting the Table

01/31/2020 07:41:12 AM

Jan31

Shara Peters

 

Before I start my blog post for this week, I would like to start by saying that I sincerely hope to see everyone on Saturday at our Day School Bazaar! It is going to truly be a fun, memorable, and unique evening. The room looks incredible, the food plentiful and delicious, and there are lots of surprises in store! And now, my article officially starts: 

On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week, I participated in the beginning of a transformative program, and wanted to share some of my experiences with you. I was accepted into the Los Angeles-based cohort for facilitation with an organization called Resetting the Table (RTT). 

RTT is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “support collaborative deliberation in the face of strong differences.” They started with the intent of helping Jewish communities in America talk about Israel in an honest, empathetic, and constructive way. While this is still a main focus of the organization, they have also branched out to start working with non-Jewish communities to strengthen our democracy in America through courageous conversations as well.  

I am only three days into a six-month-long training, but it has already had a profound effect on me. I cannot stop thinking about what I learned. And the whole time I was there, I kept thinking back to the mission and methodology of our school. My experiences with RTT only reinforced what I have shared with you many times: the solutions to most of humanity’s problems can be found within a combination of Design Thinking and middot (Jewish values). 

A deeply-held tenet of RTT is that all people deserve to be seen how they want to be seen. Think about that for a moment. Think back to a time when you engaged in a conversation about something that mattered deeply to you, but the conversation didn’t go well. Maybe it was the last time you got into an argument with a friend or family member about politics. There is a really good chance that either you or the person with whom you were speaking:

  • Didn’t “get” each other 

  • Felt like the one person was mischaracterizing the other

  • Were so interested in getting his/her/your own point across that he/she/you wasn’t truly listening to the other person

One skill we learned was how to listen for understanding, and capture the true essence of another person’s meaning. We put aside our own political opinions and completely focused on the person sitting in front of us. We weren’t worried about the things that so many of us often think about when talking politics-- our biggest concern was whether or not we were doing justice to the person in front of us, and if we were seeing them the way they wished to be seen. 

We were listening with empathy, as human-centered as it gets. Which is exactly how we start engaging in Design Thinking work. 

Our country is very divided right now. As an American society, we are terrible at listening to or engaging with people who think differently than we do. People tend to only speak about politics to people with whom they politically agree. Facebook newsfeeds have algorithms that further support this echo chamber, automatically filtering out things that don’t fit into your browsing habits. The Left unilaterally demonizes the Right, and the Right unilaterally demonizes the Left. As a society, we are terrible at listening.  

Imagine what conversations among adults would look like today if those adults had been taught to think through a lens of deep empathy in their elementary school years, as our children are learning. Imagine if adults today took the Talmudic approach to machloket, or disagreement, by stating the minority opinion first before presenting the final ruling on a piece of halacha (Jewish law). If our focus was on truly understanding others’ opinions and preserving their dignity, this world would look quite different. 

As I progress through the training, I will update you occasionally about aspects of the program that deeply resonate with me, especially about elements that relate to the mission and vision of our school. And I am more than happy to discuss any of this in person if you should so wish!

Shabbat shalom,

Shara

 

 

Fri, July 3 2020 11 Tammuz 5780