The Year of Civil Discourse Initiative
The Year of Civil Discourse (YCD) Initiative is an innovative project of the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Community Federation, in close partnership with the Northern California Board of Rabbis. Its focus is to elevate the level of discourse within the Jewish community, and increase the ability of Jewish institutions to have more respectful and informed conversations about Israel and other contentious issues. YCD was developed in response to growing tensions within the community, including issues related to Israel programming in synagogues, JCCs, Hillels, and other community institutions. This program will bolster the ability of local institutions to increase civility among members and to build consensus on challenging issues within the larger community.
A key component of YCD is called Project Reconnections. This intensive dialogue and deliberation experience is conducted over time with a skilled facilitator. Participating institutions select individuals from across their political spectrum who will learn how to engage with people with divergent viewpoints. Community leaders will have an opportunity to participate in a cohort as well. The emphasis is not on changing minds (though sometimes that occurs), but rather on building trust and changing the tone of the conversation so that all feel welcome in our institutions. As a result, participants will be able to serve their institution and their community as bridge builders when sensitive issues arise in the future.
Other YCD program offerings include:
- The ‘Rabbis’ Circle,’ providing support specifically to rabbis, such as retreats and workshops.
- acilitator training sessions, where lay and professional leaders are trained to facilitate difficult discussions
- Facilitated discussions for book and film groups that read and view controversial subjects
- Coaching and assistance in managing sensitive issues
- Study materials, templates, and best practices to foster civil discourse
- Awards granted in recognition of models of civil discourse
With its goal of changing the way we talk about Israel and other divisive issues, YCD seeks to build trust and inclusivity among those with divergent views in our Jewish community. In so doing, YCD aims to create a culture that advances our common interests and a community where vibrant, engaged, and respectful discussions about Israel as well as other wedge issues becomes the norm.