Using Jewish Values to Respond to This Moment

Using Jewish Values to Respond to This Moment

Today, as we process the shock of the events at our nation’s capital, we struggle to find a message to share with our community. ShalomLearning’s Jewish values curriculum makes Judaism relevant to the lives of our students. It gives them texts and sources to draw from when making real-life decisions. But which of our seven values speaks the loudest at this moment?  Which one will best guide us to move forward?

Teshuvah (Repentance), can we reflect on what occurred and turn it around?  B’tzelem Elohim (Created in the Image of God), aren’t we all deserving of respect?  Achrayut (Responsibility), it’s our responsibility to respect government law and civil authority.   The values of Hakarat Hatov (Recognizing the Good), Koach Haddibur (Power of Words), and Shalom (Peace) can each guide our behavior in peaceful and challenging situations. However, it was the Gevurah (Strength) unit that resonated with us today as it teaches us how to use our inner strength.

Our fifth grade Gevurah unit teaches students about the role of courage in processing an argument, the art of compromise, practical ways for standing up for rights and points of view, and the skill of consensus building. All skills needed at this moment of history.

Therefore, we are sharing two activities from this unit that help students practice conflict resolution wrapped in our Jewish teaching. May these teachings guide us as we teach our children that we have the power to express our will within a democratic process with Jewish values to guide us.

 

Activity 1: Arguing the Right Way/Conflict Resolution

15 Minutes In-Person or Virtual

Tell students: Today, we will explore how to compromise, argue, and stand up for your ideas. We will look at some scenarios and find the piece of truth that each side possesses.

Discussion Questions

  •       When you argue with someone, do you usually feel that you are right and they are wrong? Do you ever feel like they could have a legitimate point of view too?
  •       The Hebrew word for argument is machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת. But the root of the Hebrew word is chelek חֵלֶק, or part. Why do you think the root of the word machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת is chelek חֵלֶק, part?
  •       Do you think that in an argument each person may have part of the truth?
  •       When you disagree with someone else, but you acknowledge that they have a chelek חֵלֶק of the truth as well, how does that change things?
  •       Sometimes when you acknowledge other people’s chelek חֵלֶק of the truth, the result is compromise, pesharah פְּשָׁרָה. Do you view compromise as a good result?

 

 

Activity 2: What Would You do? Machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת Scenario

15 Minutes In-Person or Virtual

Role Play Fishbowl: You may use the following scenario or choose a scenario that you know the students are confronting or that is in the news. If you have never led a fishbowl before, see this site for a helpful description. https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/teaching-strategies/fishbowl (5.3.4 Fishbowl Strategy)

 

It is the first day of school. Elaina has been away the whole summer and is looking forward to seeing her best friend Jessica. When Elaina gets to school, she looks all over for Jessica and finally finds her talking to a new kid. Instead of running over to greet Elaina, Jessica keeps talking to the new kid for ten minutes before she finally goes over to greet Elaina. Elaina is mad. How could Jessica keep her waiting for so long when they haven’t seen each other for two whole months? She tells her friend Andrea that Jessica has really changed and Andrea should not be friends with her. Jessica finds out and gets angry with Elaina.

 

Have two students play the roles of Elaina and Jessica. First, have them role play an argument where they are not interested in seeing the other person’s chelek חֵלֶק of truth and care only about the truth of their position.

Choose two other students to role-play the same argument. This time, they must acknowledge the chelek חֵלֶק of truth in the other person’s position.

Discussion Questions

  •       Who made choices in this story?
  •       How could you defend Elaina’s choices?
  •       How could you defend Jessica’s choices?
  •       What other choices could they have made that may have avoided a fight?
  •       Was there a chelek חֵלֶק of truth for each side of this story?
  •       What would happen if Elaina and Jessica took the time and effort to understand the chelek חֵלֶק of truth in the other person’s argument? What would be the consequences of the argument? 
  •       What would have happened to the friendship if they talked out why they were each upset?
  •       How can respecting another person’s point of view and trying to see their chelek חֵלֶק of truth help you in other arguments and situations?

 

About Heidi Lovitz

Heidi Lovitz is an educator, education administrator, and curriculum developer dedicated to innovating Jewish education. Her experience includes Family Educator at Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton, MA for over 15 years, the Director of Jewish Life and Learning at Camp Tevya in Brookline, NH for 15 years, and Director of Education and Programming at Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua, NH. Heidi was one of the founding leaders of the Havayah program connecting teens from Boston, Haifa and Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. Heidi holds a BA in communication studies from the University of Massachusetts and is pursing a Master of Jewish Education at Hebrew College. Heidi enjoys theatre, music, reading, gardening, biking and hiking. Heidi lives in Westford, Massachusetts with her husband Peter and has two adult children.