Federation hosts series of conversations about Israel

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Global Connections and the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ are co-hosting a series of community conversations to encourage civil discourse on the issues that unite and divide Jews in Israel and the United States. The series, “Building a Heart with Many Rooms,” is designed to create opportunities for difficult but respectful conversations, and to open avenues for understanding and caring across differences.

This program is co-chaired by Lisa Lisser and David Leit, co-chairpersons of the Global Connections Kedma platform. Both are alumni of the Wexner Heritage Program and have created this series along with fellow Wexner alumni Ariel Nelson and Craig Levine. For the last 11 months, they have been trained in civil discourse techniques through the Wexner Foundation and an organization called Essential Partners.

“We have designed a format that can be experienced throughout the community in small groups and private homes,” Lisser said. “We believe that this effort is especially important now, when conversations about Israel can become extremely divisive, and when increased incidents of anti-Semitism are at the forefront of all of our minds.”

The program will launch Nov. 28 with a keynote address from Arnold Eisen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary. He will address the issues that are at the heart of the divide between Israeli and Diaspora Jews, and what can be done to bridge the gap.

“Chancellor Eisen will share his wisdom and help us frame the issues so that we can begin the conversations,” Leit said.

After the launch event, attendees will be invited to participate in follow-up small group meetings. These meetings will be facilitated conversations with protocols and ground rules so that participants are empowered to comfortably share their deeply held views, while enabling them to truly hear deeply held views of others who may strongly differ.

The launch event will be Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m. at JCC MetroWest, 760 Northfield Ave., West Orange. The event is free of charge and open to the public, but registration is required. To register, visit www.jfedgmw.org/voicesofisrael.