Holidays

5 Ways to Make Purim More Inclusive

Purim celebrations, by their definition, are festive and spirited events. Between the graggers, the shpiels, and the carnivals (most often held in echoey social halls), Purim is nothing if not loud and boisterous. Unfortunately, the onslaught of sights and sounds can be overwhelming for even typically developing children and their parents. This goes double for a family who has a child with sensory sensitivities. Often, those families will stay away from Purim celebrations out of fear that their child will become overwhelmed and have a full-on meltdown in front of everyone in the synagogue.  

Fortunately, there are several easy things you can do to make Purim more accessible to every child and every family. Many are budget-neutral (or at least budget-low-impact) and all are relatively uncomplicated to make happen. Check out the list below, pick a few to try this year, and see what a difference it makes.

  1. Create a quiet space. More than anything else, the existence of a quiet space for kids (or adults) who are feeling overwhelmed will transform your Purim celebration. If you do just this, many families who would otherwise never consider coming will do so. All you need is a room nearby (but far enough to dilute some of the noise from the celebration) with a door that closes, stocked with a few pillows, blankets, art projects, sensory materials like beans and playdoh, or anything else you think your community might enjoy.

  2. Make headphones available during the shpiel (or throughout the day). Having a few sets of noise-reducing headphones available for kids (or adults) who get overwhelmed by too much noise will go a long way towards making folks feel welcome. We like the $12 ones here.

  3. Create a social story.  Social stories are simple illustrated booklets that tell kids what to expect at a Purim celebration. They are not meant to change the child’s behavior, but rather to help them understand events and the expectations and challenges associated with them. Click the links for great examples from Matan and Gateways.

  4. Offer gluten- and dairy-free hamantaschen.  Nothing says “Purim” quite like hamantaschen. Unfortunately, many kids (and adults) have dietary restrictions--gluten- and casein-free (i.e., dairy-free) diets are especially common--which don’t allow them to eat standard hamantaschen. You can make gluten and casein-free hamantaschen  following recipes like this one or purchase them commercially at places like Mariposa Baking Company or even Amazon.

  5. Tell the community that you are doing these things. All of your great work on inclusion will only succeed if people know you are doing it! Advertise the accommodations you are making explicitly on publicity associated with your Purim event: in email blasts, on flyers, in newsletters, on signage the day of the event, and beyond.

Chag sameach!

Tu B'shvat Prep For Educators

Tu B'shvat  

Spotlight on the Olive Tree:

Tu Bishvat - New Year of the Trees (Rosh Ha'shana La'ilanot) - was originally the ancient fiscal new year created to calculate the age of trees for tithing.

Today, it is celebrated in Israel with tree planting and as an environmental awareness day.

Trees (and planting significant numbers of them!) are of great importance in Israel. Many Israelis are named after trees. In your classrooms, among your friends, and in the halls of the Knesset, you will find people named: Amir, Amira, (treetop), Oren (pine), Ilan, Ilana, Ilanit (tree), Elah (Terebinth), Alon, Alona (Oak), Erez (Cedar), Hadas (Myrtle), Tomer (Palm) and Shaked (Almond).

Even though you are unlikely to find a kid name Zayit (Olive), of all the trees, the Olive Tree has a special national meaning. With its deep roots, steadfastness, gnarled and hollow trunk, and multipurpose fruit and oil, it serves as a symbol of survival, oneness with the land, and of course, peace. 

READ more in a post Vavi Toran wrote for the iCenter a while back.

It includes “Trees!" lesson plans for various grade levels developed by Rabbi Avi Deutsch for Jewish LearningWorks

In addition check this Visrael video about how Israeli kids celebrate Tu B'shvat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purim 2017: Moral Dilemmas | Lesson for Teens

This Purim, we've created activities, guiding questions and "moral dilemmas" scenarios to serve as a touchpoint for conversations with your teenage students. 

The Purim story offers many opportunities to connect with teenagers around themes occurring in their own lives -  passion, jealousy, fear of the other, love, relationships and responsibility.

Reading and exploring excerpts from the Megillah brings up a number of questions including:

• How and why are women judged? 

• When is the right time to “come out”, to stand up for what you believe in and to advocate for others?

• What responsibility do you share for the collective?

We hope the activities, guiding questions and “moral dilemmas” scenarios spark meaningful conversations with your students.

With questions or for support in creating more ideas please don’t hesitate to contact us:  Ivitemberg@jewishlearningworks.org or 415-751 6983 ext 149

 

Suggested activities:

1.    Divide teens into groups.  Assign each group one of the moral dilemmas below and ask them to create a short presentation on its relevance to them

2.    Ask the teens to role play a scene wherein the protagonist must decide between two opposing courses of action.  Charge the teens with acting out the protagonist’s thoughts

3.    Ask the teens to create a scene without an ending.  Offer the audience the opportunity to weigh in on how the tale should end

  

 

Moral Dilemmas:  

 

Scenario 1 Coming Out

Esther Finds Favor
…9. Now the young lady pleased him and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and food, gave her seven choice maids from the king's palace and transferred her and her maids to the best place in the harem. 10. Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known. 11. Every day Mordecai walked back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and how she fared.…                                        New American Standard Bible

 Discussion questions:

• Under what circumstances is it important to stand up and assert who you are?

• How can real change occur without taking steps that hurt someone’s feelings?

• When might ensuring your physical and emotional safety be more important than standing up for something you believe in?

Scenarios:

Gil and Evan are a gay couple who have been together for nine years.  After years of struggle, they are finally legally married.  They are going to visit Evan’s elderly mother (he is her youngest!). She lives in an assisted-living, tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone. Even though she knows that Gil and Evan are married, she introduces them to her friends as “my son Evan and his friend Gil. “

How would this situation be different if: it took place in an Orthodox shul in the Midwest, where Gil’s brother plays a prominent role as a community rabbi?

How would this situation be different if: it took place in rural Pennsylvania and Gil’s brother were afraid that if the true nature of the relationship between his brother to his husband were known, they might be physically hurt?

 

 

 

Scenario 2 Mutual Responsibility

 

…12. They related Esther's words to Mordecai. 13. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not imagine that you in the king's palace can escape any more than all the Jews. 14. "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?"…New American Standard Bible

Discussion questions:

• Does what happens to others of your religion, ethnicity or culture always impact you? 

 In what ways are you responsible to your people?

Scenarios:

David is very excited to be admitted to the college of his choice.  He is especially excited to get involved in rowing crew and in political environmental causes.  Soon after his arrival at school he is asked to participate in Hillel activities relating to recent expressions of anti-Semitism on campus.  David considers the invitation but between school, crew and advocating for endangered species he is uncertain he has time.  

How would this situation be different if: David were a senior who was very popular and held a position in student government?

How would this situation be different if: Speaking out against anti-Semitism might put David at risk of losing friends or being physically targeted on campus

 

 

Scenario 3 Beauty and Power

 

12. Now when the turn of each young lady came to go in to King Ahasuerus, after the end of her twelve months under the regulations for the women-- for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics for women-- 13. the young lady would go in to the king in this way: anything that she desired was given her to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. 14. In the evening she would go in and in the morning she would return to the second harem, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not again go in to the king unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.…

Discussion questions:

• Under what circumstances should women use beauty to access power?

• What tools might be effective for women to oppose a male dominated system or culture?

Scenarios:

Sophie is smart, and accomplished young woman.  She is frequently told by her peers that she could be a Hollywood star.  Sophie has always wanted to be a writing and hears of an opening at a publishing firm that she is interested in. A peer at the firm has shared that her interviewer has a “weakness for pretty women who wear revealing clothes.” Sophie is tempted to play up her looks for the interview.

OR

Josh is staffing a leadership program for teens.  Some of the girls wear clothes that he feels are designed to make them appear sexy.   Josh believes these girls may not understand the impact of their clothing choices.  When he tries to talk to the girls about wearing other clothes out of respect for themselves and their bodies, they tell him that he is being sexist and accuse him of trying to limit their sexual expression.

Resources To Address Race and Social Justice

By Rabbi Yoshi Fenton

These have been trying times for our community, our country, and our world.  The lights of the hannukiot in our homes, the blasts of the fireworks at new year's celebrations, and the expressions of hope for a better year, have all been muted by the violence of recent weeks.

In this post you’ll find resources on teaching about protest, bigotry, terrorism, violence, the unrest in Ferguson, and our responsibilities to further civil rights.  We hope they are a help to you in your classes, with your students, and in your personal and professional lives as we all grapple to make sense of the brokenness of our world. 

With Tu b’Shevat and springtime around the corner, I am reminded of the light which always follows the darkness of winter and so I’d like to share two additional teaching with you, as a blessing for us all. The first from the sage of the Mishna, Rabbi Tarfon, and the second from the Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Shneerson. 

Rabbi Tarfon teaches, "It is not our job to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it." The Lubavitcher Rebbe would often conclude a letter or article with the blessing “Immediately to Teshuva (repentance), Immediately to Redemption.” 

It is our prayer for this New Year that we commit ourselves to creating a better, kinder and more loving place for our students and the world around us.  We offer this guide of educational resources as a support to you, Jewish educators, in your work to make our prayer a reality. 

Websites for Resources on Teaching about Social Justice
 

On1Foot is a project of AJWS and a wonderful website and resource for sources and texts on a variety of social justice topics.  You can both use already created materials or make your own. 

Justaction.org is a project of Panim, The Institute of Jewish Leadership and Values, and is another wonderful website that offers a variety of resources relating to teaching about and for social justice and change. 

Uri l’Tzedek is another organization committed to both working for and teaching about social justice and responsibility, and is the first Orthodox organization committed to social justice work.  The website is a great resource.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a wonderful resource to learn about what’s happening around the country regarding race and class.  Lots of articles and thought pieces. 

In Response to Ferguson

Channukahaction.org was created to help support those who celebrate Hanukah, connect the holiday and its observances to the events in Ferguson and conversations related to race, justice, violence, and social responsibility.  The resources and tools section is a wonderful collection of materials from a variety of sources. 

The following Jweekly article highlights many of the ways in which the Bay Area Jewish community has come together to support calls for an end to police brutality and demand a new perspective on equality and justice for all. 

This Kveller article exploring what if anything to say to our children about race in our country is an interesting and thought provoking read. 

A rabbi's response

Articles and Resources on Teaching about Race and Violence

Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton is an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Are We Born Racist?: New Insights from Neuroscience and Positive Psychology. 

The Atlantic Monthly asked teachers, academics, community leaders, and parents to recommend resources they’ve used and/or would recommend to support adults as they teach children about race. 

The PBS program The Teachers’ Lounge gathered a number of teaching strategies for how to talk about Ferguson in school.  Here’s a link to the google doc

Also check out this blog from The Teachers’ Lounge on grade specific strategies. 

Reuven Firestone wrote a wonderful article examining the major Jewish sources which speak to violence and reconciliation.  For those of you interested in diving into the sources, this should be just what you’re looking for

Text Studies, Lesson Plans, and Curricular Resources

Ask Big Questions, a project of Hillel International, has put together some wonderful collections of texts and study guides geared towards young adults and teens. 

When Do You Take a Stand?

For Whom are We Responsible?

What Advantages Do You Have?

The Rabbinical Assembly has also made available a few really great source sheets below.

On Gun Violence

On Our Obligation to Remember We Were Once Slaves

Embracing the Stranger

This Tisha b'Av Felt Different

By Rabbi Joshua Fenton

This Tisha b’Av felt different. On the saddest day of the year; that cursed day on which just about every evil perpetrated against Jews throughout history is remembered, this year in light of the fighting and dying it felt even worse. 

I didn’t go to the synagogue this year on Tisha b’Av. I stayed home, preferring to work over joining the community in what felt like another day of mourning. The thing is, it’s felt like Tisha b’Av for a while now. Watching videos of riots in Europe, reading stories of Jews around the world attacked, hearing the news report how the Jewish state was killing Palestinian civilians, it’s been feeling like Tisha b’Av for a while. 

And it’s not just me. Yesterday afternoon and evening I began to read post after post on social media reflecting people’s deep sense of mourning this year. So much so, some even expressed the desire to stay in mourning a bit longer. Tweets I read suggested folks weren’t ready to let the day go while others spoke of how the day was holding on to them, #stilltishabav. This year Tisha b’Av didn’t begin with the three weeks. We didn’t slip deeper into despair during the nine days. We were already there, since the beginning of this most recent fighting in Gaza, we’ve been there. I’ve been there.

And I think that’s a problem. There is a reason that Tisha b’Av happens only once a year. That same reason is why we don’t have additional days of mourning to commemorate the crusades, Spanish expulsion, Kmelnitzky massacre, and all of the other atrocities remembered on Tisha b’Av. It’s enough. How many sad days should there be? 

This was an argument made in the Knesset when first discussing whether or not there should even be a Yom Hashoah. There is already a Tisha b’Av, some said, and how many sad days should there be? How many days of mourning do we want to freckle our calendar? 

My favorite halakha of the Shulchan Aruch, my favorite piece of Jewish law, speaks about Tisha b’Av. It pertains to the fast of Tisha b’Av when it falls on a Sunday and answers the question, what one’s last meal before the fast should be. 

Traditionally, the last meal before we fast is the meal of mourners, a seuda mafseket or interrupting meal. It’s a meal that gets us ready for the sorrow of the following day. The meal consists of hard boiled eggs rolled in ash, eaten while seated on the floor. The imagery is powerful. When one first hears of a loss, before the period of mourning technically begins, the mourner has a meal. Something to get food into his or her stomach before the sorrow descends. A last ditch effort to build up our reserves for what is sure to be an exhausting experience. The law speaks about that meal when it comes on Shabbat. If the fast of Tisha b’Av is on a Sunday, how can we eat a mourners meal, a meal of sadness while it is still Shabbat? 

The answer the Shulchan Aruch gives is marvelous and instructive. The instruction is to “set a table fit for King Solomon.” If you were to ask my children what that means, they’d tell you it would have to be a meat meal with parve ice cream afterwards. What else could a king ask for? What this law highlights is that the joy of Shabbat cannot be limited by the mourning of Tisha b’Av. The most sorrowful day of the year needs to be contained. It can be radioactive in it’s ability to affect and infect all those around it and we must therefore resist the urge to let it. It’s also a halakha/law that if the fast of Tisha b’Av falls on Shabbat, we push it to Sunday. The day must be contained.  

Just as it is a mitzvah to mourn on that terrible day, and just as it is a mitzvah to join your community and your people in mourning, it is also a mitzvah to move on. When the mourner completes her seven days of mourning, shiva, she is commanded to get up. 

Of course as I write these words, sitting in my office in San Francisco, I have my family, friends, colleagues, and fellow Jews living in Israel speaking to me from inside my heart and soul. They ask me how to let it go. They ask “how can we move on when it feels like the evil and terror that continues to chase us may have only quieted for a moment?” I share that fear and I share that doubt, as does every mourner as they see the end of shiva fast approach. 

My response is to have hope, none the less, that today’s tomorrow will be better than yesterday’s, and that the quiet may build and grow. And to all of us in the states, to my friends who felt a longing to stay just a little longer in mourning and to those who didn’t feel drawn to stay in Tisha b’Av but felt stuck, I say it’s time to move on. It’s time to again celebrate life and possibility, and even if it only lasts for 72 hours, it’s time to get up and walk around the block and hope and believe that these past weeks of war have come to an end and we are all ready to move on. 

Is that a shofar I hear? 

Is There Such a Thing as Causeless Hatred?

By David Waksberg, CEO Jewish LearningWorks

For years we did not fast on Tisha b'Av.  The 9th of Av, a Jewish day of mourning, commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temple, along with other calamities through history.

We didn't fast because, well, it's complicated.  In my youth, I'd learned that we fast on Tisha b'Av to mourn the destruction of the Temple.  In the long run, I didn't think the destruction of the Temple was such a bad thing - Judaism adapted and evolved.  We were again, as Hatikvah notes, a free people in our land.   I'd moved on and I was not interested in a third Temple.

But my purpose is not to explain why I stopped fasting; rather, about why I started again.  This year.

The rabbis attributed the destruction of the Temples to sinat chinam (causeless hatred).  That phrase - causeless hatred - always struck me.  Is there such a thing as causeful hatred?  I get it, causeless hatred referred to hatred without reason (among ourselves).  But when is there a good reason to hate?

But again, I digress.  I came to realize that my Jewish education failed me.  Because the thing to mourn on Tisha b'Av is not the Temple, but the sinat chinam - the hatred that caused its destruction.  The hatred among Jews.  The hatred of the Babylonians toward the Jews.  The hatred of the Romans.  The hatred of England toward its Jews, who were expelled on the 9th of Av, 1290.  The hatred of the Spanish Inquisition that led to, on the 9th of Av in 1492, the expulsion of every Jew after centuries of life in Spain.  The hatred of the Nazis, who began to deport the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto  to the death camps on the 9th of Av, 1942. 

My Jewish education failed me because what I learned about Tisha b'Av was the most basic and least interesting aspects.  I felt scant connection to the Temple and its rituals.  But hatred, pettiness and dehumanization - these were and are all around me.

When has "causeless hatred" been more alive than today?  It was among those Palestinians who kidnapped and murdered Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yiftach, and Gilad Shaar.  Among those Jews who abducted and burned alive Mohammed Khdeir.  It is alive in Nigeria, where school girls "disappear" and Boko Haram has killed more than 3,000 people this year.  And it is thriving in Syria - where the death toll is nearing 200,000 (most of them non-combatants) and in Iraq, where Sunni ISIS fighters are targeting Shia, Christians and other non-Sunni groups - the death toll there is nearing 10,000 civilians during the last 12 months and Christians are being singled out for forced conversion, expulsion, or death. 

Will my fasting today end hatred tomorrow?  Not likely.  But why do we fast in the first place?  To focus our attention and look inward.  So I'm starting with myself - reflecting on the dark corners of my own heart.  I'll see where that takes me.

RESOURCES and RUMINATIONS

Rumination 
 Tisha b'Av and Non-Violence 
by Vavi Toran

Your Kids Are Ready To Talk About Israel. Are You?
from Kveller


Resources 
Discussing crisis with civility
Leaving Baggage and Blame at the Door

A Simple Guide to talking to your friends 
from Stories Without Borders

Useful questions for educators to pursue 
From the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education 
Seeking new insights into difficult questions
Peoplehood questions and the crisis in Israel
Family Feelings

Tisha B’av

By Vavi Toran

In the past few weeks I argued with almost everyone I know. I also agreed with almost everyone I know. In the morning I am right-leaning and at night I am a leftist. In the morning I see no other way than continuing with all our might until the job is done (what job? When do we know it’s done?) and at night I mourn for victims of both sides. Most of all I wish this was over. I wish for an end to violence and suffering. When I talk or argue or try to get my point across I don’t always remain calm or listen attentively to my adversary. Many times we find out a few minutes into the heated argument that we have very similar beliefs after all. We argue because we care!

But not everywhere and every time there is a clash of ideas they remains civil and non-violent. On the streets of Jerusalem, in public places where people are demonstrating for this or that side, in written and broadcasted commentaries, and in social media, the discourse is far from civil and hatreds ancient and new come out in their ugliest manifestations.

Today is erev Tisha B'av, the commemoration of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.

“Why were the Temples destroyed? The ancient rabbis explain that the First Temple was destroyed because of three things that occurred in it: idolatry, unseemly sexual behavior, and bloodshed. And then they give what to me is a provocative answer as to why the Second Temple was destroyed: "Because there was sinat chinam, baseless hatred." The Talmud goes on to say: "This teaches that baseless hatred is equated with three sins: idolatry, unseemly sexual behavior and bloodshed." (Talmud Yoma 9B)

What is sinat chinam? It includes gratuitous internecine backbiting, malicious hurtful speech and the inability to discuss differences in a civil way. These behaviors are seen as being as bad as idolatry, adultery and murder.

The astonishing claim is that how we talk to and about each other around issues that matter can destroy a city or maybe even a country. Words matter. Innuendo can kill." (From an article by Rabbi Laura Geller)

On this Tisha b’Av let us remember to listen to one another, honor each other’s opinions, and respond with civility and compassion. 

This  poem by Yehuda Amichai “From the Place Where We Are Right” - is especially poignant on this day.

The Place Where We Are Right

by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.


The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.


But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.


And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

 

Read more about Tisha B'av.

Israel Education, Every Day

On Yom Ha’atsmaut our community comes together to celebrate Israel, making now the perfect time to highlight the Israel education work happening here at Jewish LearningWorks each and every day, all year long.

With the support of generous funders including the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Goldman Fund, we have developed innovative new approaches to Israel education, partnering with educators and schools across Northern California.

That work includes:

  • Israel Educators Network – Community of Practice for Israel educators throughout Northern California
  • Summer Israel Seminar for Jewish Educators – brings educators to Israel for an intensive two-week seminar to fuel their pedagogy;
  • Tractate: Independence – ground-breaking  Israel curriculum for teens and young adults.  In pilot phase with nine schools (day and synagogue ) here, in Northern California;
  • Classic Israeli Tales – curriculum introduces elementary and pre-school aged Americans to Israeli children’s stories;
  • Educational exhibits, curricula and resources: Poster Tales, Apartment for Rent, Coexistence, , Tel Aviv Exploration, Theodore Herzl, and more;
  • Israel Education e-newsletter – monthly resources for hundreds of Bay Area educators.

To learn more about this work or to take advantage of support, email IVitemberg@Jewishlearningworks.org

One Experience at the Sensory Friendly Purim Carnival

Read what one parent had to say about her son's experience at a Purim Carnival and the impact INCLUDE made:

I would like to thank you so much for making the sensory friendly Purim Carnival.  That wing was a life-saver. It was our first time at that Purim Carnival and I did not realize how intense the main rooms were.  They were very crowded, very loud, the lines were long and the children were very excited.  It was actually overwhelming to me--there is no way we could have had a successful experience without the sensory friendly wing.

Thanks again,

Rachel

Tisha B'av - Arguing for the Sake of Heaven

From David Waksberg,  CEO Jewish LearningWorks

“How desolate lies the city, once so full of people,” begins the Book of Lamentations, Jeremiah’s wail of grief over the (first) destruction of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was laid waste and Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians.

In Lamentations, which Jews read on Tisha B’Av (9th of Av -tonight and tomorrow), Jeremiah assigns blame for the catastrophe, not with Nebuchadnezzer (the Babylonian king), but at the feet of the Jews themselves - it was our own behavior that brought on this calamity.

Six hundred years later history repeats itself as the rebuilt Temple and Jerusalem are again destroyed, this time by the Romans.  Incredibly, both events occurred on Tisha B’Av.

The destruction of the 2nd Temple is an event that weighed heavily on the rabbis of the Talmud, who lived in the centuries following that tragedy. They sought to explain the cause of the disaster. Like Jeremiah, they found the need to look no further than a mirror.

Sinat chinam or “groundless hatred” -led to their downfall, the rabbis claim. Groundless hatred does not refer to disputes or controversy. Makhloket l’shem shamayim,a “dispute for the sake of heaven,” celebrates the notion that we can disagree and even argue over important matters. In the Talmud, even when the rabbis agree on an interpretation - the alternative approach is presented as well.

At the end of a dispute over law between the followers of Hillel and those of Shammai, the Talmud reports a heavenly voice saying: Elu v’elu devrei elohim chayim - “These and those are the words of the living God.” It proclaims both sides of the disagreement are worthy. “But the law follows Hillel,” concludes the heavenly voice. Why? Because the followers of Hillel were “kindly and modest and studied both their rulings and those of Shammai.” (Eruvin 13b)

We are a disputatious people. Part of Jewish education involves learning how to manage these “disputes for the sake of Heaven” without tearing ourselves apart in sinat chinam, petty and groundless hatred.

The last vestige of the destroyed Temple is haKotel, the Western Wall. In a religion that exalts time, the Wall is the closest we Jews get to sacred space and once again it is in our sacred space that sinat chinam has reemerged. Visions differ on how that space should be used. These could be respectful “arguments for the sake of heaven,” however, the Women of the Wall have seen more of the sinat chinam that our rabbis suggest brought about the destruction of the Temple.

Last month, as their prayer service was disrupted, a woman carried a note from a friend fighting cancer, a prayer for healing to be placed in a crack in the wall. Once it was clear she would not get near the wall, the woman asked those who were blocking their way if one of them would please take the note and place it in the wall. “Your friend should die,” was the response.

In his Torah of Reconciliation, Rabbi Sheldon Lewis cites Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook’s interpretation of “these and those are the words of the living God.”

“...the truth of the light of the world will be constructed from many points of view and varying approaches, for “both these and those are the words of the living God.”... the multiplicity of views that emerges from the differences of souls and education is just that which enriches wisdom ...”

In Rabbi Lewis’s view, Rav Kook challenges the equation of peace with “oneness.” He suggests that peace (shalom has the same root as shalem - wholeness) emerges out of the “diversity that includes all of the unnumbered dimensions and pathways to wisdom” (R. Lewis, Torah of Reconciliation).

The young men and women in Jerusalem who have been mobilized in violent opposition to the Women of the Wall are being indoctrinated in the ways of groundless hatred rather than educated in the ways of arguing for the sake of heaven. Education, in contrast to indoctrination, equips our minds with the kind of critical thinking the rabbis of the Talmud modeled for us, and it is this critical thinking that enables us to engage in meaningful and respectful dialogue with one another.

The Jewish world is filled with disagreement - religious, political, cultural. The lessons from Tisha B’Av are not to engage in zealotry and dehumanization of the “other” in a never-ending spiral of hatred. They are, rather, to find and respect the humanity and merit even in ardent dispute.

As we prepare for Tisha B’Av and mourn the destruction that has accompanied this day, let us mourn and challenge sinat chinam, the groundless hatred that plagues us still. And may our educators prepare our students for a meaningful Jewish life which requires engagement in meaningful and respectful “disputes for the sake of heaven.”