August 31, 2011: Leading Jewish Figures Release Resources on Civility for High Holidays

Concerned about the impact of incivility and divisive debates on the Jewish community, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs has worked with a group of leading rabbis and scholars to prepare sermons, sacred texts, and study materials to promote civility during the High Holy Days and throughout the year.

“Increasingly, conversations are giving way to diatribe. We can do better,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow.  “We hope that these materials will be used as a resource by synagogues, rabbis, schools, and throughout the Jewish community to help build understanding about the Jewish value of civil discourse.  Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are times for self reflection, a time when confessional prayers and study help us to focus on issues of listening and speech. It is a perfect opportunity to evaluate just how we have used our power of speech and how we might choose our words in ways that engender greater cohesiveness and mutual respect.”

The civility materials were prepared by a working group composed of rabbis and scholars from across the Jewish religious spectrum. “We were honored to have in our working group outstanding experts including Dr. Erica Brown, Prof. Amy-Jill Levine, Rabbi Sheldon Lewis, Rabbi Vivie Mayer, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Rabbi David Teutsch, and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.  These esteemed leaders are, among many, calling for a renewed focus on civility as essential for the well-being of the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Amy Eilberg, who chairs the Working Group on Sacred Texts, part of the JCPA’s Campaign for Civility.

“JCPA’s Campaign for Civility was launched in 2010 and works with communities across the country to promote modes of communication that combine Judaism’s love of debate and truth with a respect for human dignity, community, and democracy” said JCPA Vice President Ethan Felson.

Sample sermons on civility have been provided by San Francisco Bay Area rabbis who participated in the Year of Civil Discourse Initiative organized by the San Francisco JCRC, Jewish Community Federation, Board of Rabbis, and East Bay Federation. Felson added that, “the JCPA Campaign for Civility hopes to see these and other text materials used in communities throughout the country.”  

Sample sermons and materials from the Year of Civil Discourse Initiative can be found here.

Jewish sacred texts on civility can be found here.

The study sheets can be found here

For more information on the civility campaign, visit www.jewishpublicaffairs/civility.org.

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