June 24, 2012
The Jewish Agency’s third Global Jewish Forum is just a stone’s throw away on the calendar. I use that expression intentionally. Occurring three times each year, the Forum opens conversation among young adults, scholars and Jewish communal leaders from around the world on the most profound and urgent issues facing the Jewish people. The purpose is to share perspectives and gain understanding. Last June, the discussion focused on de-legitimization. This past February, we tackled the growing tension between the Haredim and mainstream Israeli society. Both gatherings were at times tense and reflected the passion which Jews from all walks of life carry with them. Next week, we could have a repeat performance. We are still a stone’s throw away from any true state of civility.
I’ve been pondering the limits of conversation lately and thinking about how language has become one of our great constraints. Language is all we have to communicate ideas. It offers both the gift and the limitation of being a uniquely human skill. But our Jewish lexicon is having trouble holding certain words in place at the same time. Words like “liberalism,” “conservatism,” “Zionism” “right, “left,” “republican,” “democrat.” While actions can bring harm, we regard language as essentially neutral. It is a vehicle or vessel for containing ideas. But all of the words above have taken on all kinds of connotations and often produce many visceral reactions. Language is not safe. Read more