Rabbi Ron Symons, senior director of Jewish Life at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, and Suzanne Schreiber, a past president of Tree of Life Congregation, have joined the inaugural cohorts of the Mahloket Matters Fellowship, an in-depth study of what the program terms “the value of constructive disagreement,” according to a JCC press release.
The three cohorts consist of 31 fellows; Symons joins the educational leadership cohort and Schreiber is a fellow in the volunteer leadership cohort.
“We live in a moment of unprecedented breakdown in civil discourse,” according to the program statement. “Yet, our Jewish tradition upholds the principle that constructive disagreement for the sake of heaven (Mahloket L’Shem Shamayim) is not only imperative but the holy work needed to repair what can feel like irreconcilable differences that permeate within our Jewish communities.”
The cohorts are composed of Jewish educators, rabbis and volunteers who will attend eight sessions to explore a “methodology of text study that delves into complex and contradictory narratives” and then apply that by creating programs “that increase the desire and ability to understand and engage more constructively with conflicting political opinions today,” according to the JCC press release. The goal is to improve civil discourse.
Mahloket Matters is a program of The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.
“I am very pleased to be in the fellowship because of the deep learning it offers and the relationships I am building with colleagues across the country,” Symons said. “The bottom line is that the more that we are able to speak with people in a civil way, the better our communities will be. Jewish values have so much to offer in the ways that we can learn how to have these conversations.”
“It is an honor to be a part of the first cohort of Pardes’ Mahloket Matters volunteer leadership fellows,” said Schreiber. “We are living in a moment of an unprecedented breakdown in civil discourse, and it is critical that we find pathways to re-engage with our communities in Mahloket L’Shem Shamayim (disagreement for the sake of heaven) so that we can more productively disagree, and still retain a sense of mutual respect for one another.” PJC
— Toby Tabachnick