Sh'ma: The Practice of Hearing

Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener

Sh'ma: The Practice of Hearing

By Andrea Cohen-Kiener*

There have been better days for reconciliation work. The essential insight of reconciliation, namely everyone on all sides is a human being; is no less true in these difficult days. It is just less apparent.

In the better days, various organs of the Hartford Jewish community participated in collaborative efforts with the local mosque. We brought our kids together for very respectful interfaith dialogue. We ran social actions together, raising money for resettlement of Moslem refugees of Bosnia. Now I often hear "Talking is a waste of time. There is a war; choose sides" Still there are people whose human experience of the Other is that of caring faithful human beings. Once established, that insight is very hard to shake.

Is this a time for dialogue? I believe that the related communities in North America to the factions in Israel/ Palestine can and have played a defining role. We can certainly challenge ourselves to explore what constructive role we might play simply to reduce the suffering and express our own grief and concern.

There are three Middle East Dialogue groups that I know of which are over a decade old — one each in Nablus, San Francisco and Bethlehem. My colleagues in dialogue work say that this is a time for private and modest actions and perhaps a time for each community to look inward towards it's own teshuva/repair and self-reflection. I am very anxious to effect dramatic changes, but this work is a much slower process, the longer shorter way. Of establishing again and again that we refuse to be enemies. There is a way to do this. Let us accept the challenge.

In Hartford, the reconciliation work I have done in Israel/Palestine was once seen as mildly na