Reflections on Civil Discourse and Civic Engagement, on President’s Day

On President’s Day, we’re reminded of our lucky position as citizens of a democracy, and as Jewish people living freely in a democratic country. To honor and celebrate the myriad voices that make up our great community, we’ve collected reflections from five practitioners in the areas of Jewish text, civil discourse, civic engagement and education.

In one reflection, Rabbi Shai Held urges us to examine how as Jews and educators, we can engage effectively, argue civilly, think critically and act empathetically, too.

Rabbi Held writes, “So nu, what now? I want people to engage at that level. I want people to be challenged, inspired, and provoked. To ask themselves, ‘What am I responsible for, who am I responsible to?’”

As you read through his thoughts and those of the others collected here, ask yourself, ‘What now? What’s next? How can I help?’”

With admiration,


Eric Liu, Founder and CEO, Citizen University, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Citizenship and American Identity Program

Civic literacy, to be capable and powerful participating citizens in this country, is the point of the whole endeavor of civic engagement…

Adam Strom, Director of Scholarship and Innovation, Facing History and Ourselves

We are currently witnessing the world’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. There are 65.3 million people displaced across the globe right now and about one billion others on the move…

Rabbi Shai Held, President, Dean, Chair in Jewish Thought, Mechon Hadar

The more time I spent teaching certain texts—primarily biblical texts about how the God of the Torah is preoccupied with the status of the most vulnerable in society…

Rabbi Jason Rubenstein, Dean of Students and Alumni, Yeshivat Hadar

I can point to a few distinct narratives that when looked at together, form the basis for how I view the intersection of Torah and civic engagement in my life…

Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, Co-Founding Director, Resetting The Table

Many things might bring people to conversations with those with whom they disagree. Relationship: caring about another person and knowing we can’t not talk about something that matters to us both…

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Joel Lurie Grishaver
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Joel Lurie Grishaver

March 30, 2016