A group of rabbis convened in New York City for a three-day seminar, May 19-21, on mediation training, organized by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Future (CJF) – Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), in conjunction with the Kukin Program for Conflict Resolution at YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
The training was presented by attorneys Adam Berner, and Sequoia Stalder, both expert trainers in the field of mediation and conflict resolution.
“By definition, rabbis here and in all places are serving so many different roles—in the pulpit, as teachers and as educators, working with many people, and people have differences,” said Berner, an alumnus of RIETS and Cardozo and an assistant professor at Cardozo.
“This workshop is a frame of how best to help these leaders deal with differences, how to manages the realities of being in a community and how to take conflict and see it is an opportunity for growth, learning and change, for themselves and for others,” he added.
Through a combination of discussion and collaborative role-playing activities, the training was designed to teach participants “how to maximize the chance of being on the positive side of a conflict,” said Stalder, who founded a company to provide workplace mediation training and serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution.
“We create a framework for a dialogue, teaching specific skills that support that dialogue. We teach how to get to the root of the conflict, with the goal being collaboration, to determine how the needs of both sides can be met.”
For Rabbi Shaanan Gelman, the workshop and the topics it covered hit close to home.
“Not a week goes by without me being personally engaged in conflict resolution in some form, whether it’s communal, ritual, familial or on an organizational level,” said Gelman, rabbi of Kehilat Chovevei Tzion in Skokie, Illinois.
“This conference provided the building blocks of managing conflicts on all fronts of the rabbinate, infinitely valuable skills which touch upon every aspect of the job and teach you to understand all sides of a contentious issue.”
Other attendees viewed the training as a vital part of their ongoing rabbinic education.
“This training was about seeing conflicts from different angles and how to effectively work towards a resolution.” said Rabbi Jeremy Donath, who leads Congregation Darchei Noam in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.
“It’s great to be able to come back to my alma mater to learn and engage in the growth process. To be connected to YU and have the opportunity to attend these trainings is really an asset for me in my perpetual education,” he added.
“This unique collaboration between all aspects of the University, convened by the Center for the Jewish Future, brings best practice from the legal field to bear on rabbinic leadership,” said Rabbi Levi Mostofsky, director of the CJF’s Department of Continuing Education.
“In addition to developing the rabbi’s capacity to mediate, the experience broadened one’s view of conflict, with broad application in personal, professional and even religious life.”
“As a spiritual mentor and a role model, these are life skills that a rabbi needs,” added Berner. “It’s a privilege to be able to come back to YU, 20 years after I graduated, to help both the rabbinic community and the legal community.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)