Jews and the Vatican: Process into Action

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Inbal Freund-Novick is an organizational consultant and co-founder of The Unmasked Comics Project, a social change comics venture with comics artist Chari Pere. After spending a year as a visiting fellow at JPPPI (The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute), she currently serves in the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress.

inbal freund-novickFreund-Novick is a participant in Discovering Common Values: The Catholic-Jewish Leadership Conference, hosted by the Vatican and held at the Pope’s summer palace of Castel Gandolfo. She’ll be blogging about it all week, only at MJL.

This morning was our first attempt to convert our process into action. It turned out to be very simple and very complicated at the same time. We started doing what we should have done from the beginning –- sit in small groups and get to talk in depth about things that matter. I was leading a discussion group about justice and charity with Elena, a Focolarina from Argentina, and we spoke mostly of social change. Preparing this was not easy, as we speak different languages, sleep in very different time zones, and neither of us had too much time to prepare prior to the conference.

We started by trying to understand both concepts with texts about justice, charity and mostly social change. I brought Maimonides’ 8-stage model of charity to the table and we did some text study together. Then we tried comparing our views of those concepts to see in what ways we are different and what’s similar.

I think there was magic in the air. The group was blessed with very good people who were eager to share thoughts and feelings. For an hour and a half, while working with our group I felt so many strong feelings about this process. I felt curiosity about the others, I felt that the possibility to grow from learning together was enormous; I think I even felt that history was knocking at this building’s doors and we had the keys to let it in.

Later we met in the main hall again to discuss the work done in the small groups and see where are we were planning to take all of this, naively thinking that what we were planning matters. I was so not surprised to discover that the opportunity for us to actually create something together was very limited. With some remarks of the “older leaders” I started understanding that, yet again, this process was in danger of becoming a theater performance in which we were playing roles so that the older leadership could tick off the requisite “doing something with the younger generation.“

I am very appreciative of the place and organization. Our hosts are wonderful people and organizing such things is hard, and takes time and effort, but in so many times the old leadership who hold the means for these processes, talk about us, but not with us. It’s a matter of setting priorities for the process and not wasting time with long top-down lectures instead of letting us do what we do so well as young people –- create. Let us suggest new conferencing methods that were recently developed like open–space for example to help us create together. You gave us good education trust us to keep things going in the right direction. We are eager to take responsibility and very able to do so.

In Lurianic Kabbalah there is a term called Tzimtzum -– reduction. According to this idea, the world was created when G-d reduced himself and left space for the world to be created. Maybe our leaders need to create a frame for us but then reduce themselves so that the younger generations would be able to enter a process of creating new worlds for the future in ways which are relevant to younger crowds.

Will we be able to actually keep this discourse going? Will this amazing group of people with very big hearts and brains — Christians like the Focolare movement members who I met here and representatives of Jewish organizations who came here in order to create a beautiful tapestry of opinions together, will have a chance of meeting again to learn even more about each other despite the massive mentality and language differences?

Read the previous entries about the Jews and the Vatican Conference.

Posted on June 25, 2009

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