Speaking Across Conflict

Speaking Across Conflict

Written by: Haley Schreier (’15)

On Sunday March 15th, myself and other individuals from the Jewish community at Michigan came together at the Trotter Multicultural Center to learn how to more effectively dialogue about Israel with each other. The workshop was done by the organization Resetting the Table and was facilitated by Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, the Director of Jewish Council for Public Affair’s National Civility Initiative.

Entitled “Speaking Across Conflict”, the program challenged us to speak openly about our feelings, but more importantly, to listen and learn from each other. The students that participated ranged from those involved in I-LEAD and JStreet, to people who had only been to Israel once and those that had spent years there. Throughout the session, we were able to collectively share with each other our beliefs on the state of Israel and the current conflict. Although everyone in the room was Jewish, we had different experiences, views and ideas about the conflict, and the workshop was aimed at teaching us how to listen and dialogue effectively. The exercises that we did enabled us to learn skills necessary to speak with people from other communities and understand where they come from without jumping to conclusions about their viewpoints.

More specifically, we really focused on learning how to listen and understand other people. Two participants who had very different beliefs on a certain topic were asked to sit facing each other, and listen closely to what the other had to say. Rather than engaging in a fight or argument, they were simply asked to try to understand the other person’s viewpoint. In doing this exercise, we learned how to ask questions in order to engage with someone else’s ideas, rather than to prove our own points.

I believe that this workshop was a success because it furthered the belief that productive and engaging dialogue is one of the main routes to future peace. In order to more effectively dialogue and relate to people from other communities, we must first be able to understand each other and ourselves. Resetting the Table provided us with the tools and skills to start that process.