It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman’s post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments) predicated upon the belief in the value of and […]
I agree with all that has been said by rabbis Stern, Hirschfield, and Waxman about agreeing to enter into dialogue with those with whom we disagree while being careful not to be duped or give up articulating our own concerns just to get to or stay at the table.
There are limits to such an approach, of course. The Second Intifada deflated the Israeli peace movement in such a visceral way because well-meaning Jewish peace activitists (myself among them) had thought that dialogue and cooperative projects with Palestinians would build mutual trust and ultimately result in the means to build a cooperative peace. The problem was not with what we said together but what was being said behind our backs and the willingness of those in the peace party to ignore it. This is probably what Rabbi Stern was referring to in his warning that we not allow ourselves to be duped.
I think we have learned something in the last few years. We have to talk together, but we also must be vigilant and willing to confront–in a respectful and calm manner–contradictions and inappropriate contentions whenever presented. In this way we can start rebuilding the steps towards interfaith dialogue that have worked elsewhere: first deal with what you have in common to build a recognition of shared humanity, then begin to deal with what is unique to each group in order to begin to appreciate our differences, and only finally deal with where we actually differ, to find some ways of showing respect for each side.