Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

FYI from JCRC: On the importance of listening

In last month’s FYI column, we talked about the importance of community-to-community relationships, which are especially critical in a time of increased conflict. Those relationships are built on person-to-person mutual respect and understanding. At this time of so much global and local anguish and anxiety, it is easy to feel that we, as individuals, cannot do anything, that we are powerless to make positive changes in the face of the upsurge of anger, violence and mistrust that has impacted us all. But we can do something. We are not powerless. The change starts with a very simple proposition: to reach out to someone you don’t have much in common with, and ask them how they are feeling. Listen to what is important to them, and why it is important. Do not argue. Do not contradict. Just listen.

It’s been well-documented that most people get their news and information from sources that align with their values, and that we are most comfortable talking to others who share our beliefs. If you are conservative or progressive or somewhere in between, when was the last time you actually sat down with someone with an opposing political view and really tried to process why that person’s values matter so much to them? As a Jew, when was the last time you reached out to someone non-Jewish and asked to learn about what makes a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist live their faith in a certain way? If you are a native-born American, when was the last time you asked an immigrant how that experience colors their views? And if you are Caucasian, when was the last time you looked into the eyes of a person of color, and listened as they explained how the world feels to them these days? You do not need to agree or to change your own mind. But to listen, to really listen, is to begin to understand.

There are many opportunities in Central Florida to begin these individual “listening tours.” Valencia College’s Peace and Justice Initiative hosts Community Conversations on Race as well as Orlando Speaks, a collaboration between the City of Orlando and the Orlando Police Department. The Interfaith Council of Central Florida’s newsletter offers multiple options to engage with those from other faiths; in fact, the Interfaith Council partnered with the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center to host The Faith, Peace and Justice Summer Series on this very topic this summer. JCRC itself is co-hosting an event with the Diocese of Orlando and the Interfaith Council in November looking at how the changes in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people may serve as a guide for how other faiths can overcome fraught relationship histories. But you need not attend a formal event or facilitated series to be part of the solution. All you need to do is look beyond your comfort zone, have the courage to have your assumptions challenged, keep an open mind and listen.

We look forward to seeing you here in this space again next month. In the meantime, should you have any questions, please contact JCRC’s staff director, Marli Porth, at mporth@jfgo.org.


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