Learning to converse about Israel, civilly

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

The Jewish Community Relations Council and Anti-Defamation League local chapters are collaborating on a program designed to empower people who usually avoid discussions about Israel.

The Jewish nonprofits are targeting people who have never attended an Israel learning program before, said Karen Aroesty, director of ADL of Missouri/Southern Illinois/Eastern Kansas.  

The Words to Action workshop is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 19 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Blvd. The organizations are offering two sessions, one from 9 a.m. to noon; the other from 1 to 4 p.m.

“Sometimes there is not such civil discourse around the Israel conversation,” said Aroesty. “What I have been finding is that a lot of folks didn’t want to go to programs because they didn’t want to be caught in the middle. They didn’t know where they stood on Israel.” 

The hope is that once people have participated in the program, they will feel comfortable responding to anti-Israel words or actions that bleed into anti-Semitism. That could mean, for example, discussing Israel in another education program, writing a letter to the editor or engaging with groups on college campuses, Aroesty said. 

Emily Muskin, education director of ADL’s Cleveland office, and Philip Deitch, a local civil rights activist, will lead the program.

During one activity, participants will share their personal experiences with anti-Semitism with one another. The organizers decided to hold the program at the Regional Arts Commission, Aroesty said, because they felt that “to truly create a space that is neutral, we needed a location outside the Jewish community.”

The workshop is free to participants and funded by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis with the support of the Kranzberg Family Foundation, Lubin-Green Foundation and Staenberg Family Foundation.

To sign up for the workshop, email Aroesty at [email protected] by Nov. 16.