HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


From the Editor

by Barbara Davis Issue: Pluralism
The mission statement of RAVSAK, the network of Jewish community day schools throughout North America and abroad, speaks to the lofty goal of “fostering authentic Jewish pluralism.” But what exactly is pluralism? Diana Eck, writing an introduction for the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, posits four points that define the term. Pluralism, she writes, “is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity…. [P]luralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference.” She notes that pluralism “is not relativism, but the encounter of commitments,” which means “holding our deepest differences, even our religious differences, not in isolation, but in relationship to one another.” The fourth critical component, in Eck’s view, is dialogue because “the language of pluralism is that of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism. Dialogue means both speaking and listening, and that process reveals both common understandings and real differences. Dialogue does not mean everyone at the ‘table’ will agree with one another. Pluralism involves the commitment to being at the table—with one’s commitments.”

Clearly the subject of pluralism is contentious. In our everyday lives as Americans, we face issues of diversity in the political and social realms, where even a medium such as the Internet appears to create divisions and pluralities rather than unity as our presumably “independent” choices are increasingly determined by our clicking preferences. As educators, we face issues of pluralism in the changing demographics in our schools, where one can no longer assume that the “normal” Jewish family is composed of the biological, white, synagogue-affiliated, heterosexual parents of 2.5 children. And as Jews, of course, we have always had to recognize that two Jews means three opinions, and many Jews means many more.

This issue of HaYidion brings many of these issues to the table in a spirited discussion of the theme of Jewish pluralism in the community day school setting. Not all of these voices are in agreement; some challenge the authenticity of pluralism, some accept it so totally as to be unaware that others may reject their vision. But the voices are strong, provocative and powerful. The many viewpoints and perspectives of this issue’s authors contribute significantly to the depth of the dialogue on this timely and important topic. They make fascinating reading and provide a learned framework for further discussion and conversation. ♦

Dr. Barbara Davis is the Secretary of RAVSAK, Executive Editor of HaYidion and Head of School at the Syracuse Hebrew Day School in Dewitt, NY. Barbara can be reached at shds@twcny.rr.com.

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Pluralism

Pluralism is central to the mission and self-understanding of many community day schools. The questions of what that term means, and how it is implemented in the policies and educational practices of the school, are difficult to answer and require reflection and discussion among all stakeholders. Explore larger perspectives on, and disagreements over, pluralism and ways to approach Jewish study with pluralistic methodology.

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