If you let your imagination run and your fervor for being Jewish soar, how would you finish a sentence that begins: “On Shabbos, I…?” Or “Judaism inspires…”? Or “Israel can depend…”?
There is an age-old exercise that can be used to illuminate one’s views, or to compare and contrast them with the views of others. The premise is simple. The beginning of a sentence is given, and you then complete it. You make a full sentence out of an initial fragment, taking it in any direction you wish. Participants may agree to permit answers consisting of two or three sentences, as long as those sentences form one thought. The responses can shine a light on the mindset of the participants.
The exercise can be used in schools and at political meetings, in social settings and at job interviews, as a party game as well as an interesting way to pass some time on a long Shabbos afternoon. Topics can span the spectrum of human thought and endeavor.
For our purposes, we will focus on Jewish-related subjects and call it “What’s Your Jewish Perspective?” A variety of themes can be utilized, including halacha, culture, lifestyle, food, religious identity, prayers, Jewish holidays, ethics, and morals, Jewish history, Jewish philosophy, Jewish humor, Jewish politics, and Israel.
The goal is to complete the sentence in a profound or thought-provoking way that invites discussion. A person should not take an unreasonable amount of time in formulating a response, and responses should not ramble on or go off topic.
In this exercise there are no right or wrong answers – only thoughts and opinions and beliefs to be evaluated, considered, mulled over, discussed, or debated. After a response is given, other participants may comment or ask the respondent for further explanation before a discussion begins.
To illustrate the possibilities, The Jewish Press asked distinguished representatives from the fields of Jewish politics and religion to complete 10 beginning sentence fragments. First we’ll see what those in the political realm had to say.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League since 1987, is a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism, bigotry and discrimination.
Alan M. Dershowitz is Felix Frankfurter professor of law at Harvard Law School and a prolific writer who’s been called “the Jewish state’s lead attorney in the court of public opinion.”
Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, is widely credited with reviving the ZOA after ascending to the group’s presidency in 1993.
Here are the beginning sentence fragments and responses from Messrs. Foxman, Dershowitz and Klein:
Peace in the Middle East…
Foxman: can and should be achieved in our lifetime.
Dershowitz: will be difficult to achieve because so many Arabs and Muslims refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people.
Klein: won’t happen until the Palestinian Arabs stop promoting hatred and violence against Jews and Israel in their media, schools, sermons and lectures; outlaw terrorist groups and arrest their members, as Oslo requires; and accept Israel as a Jewish state.
In the next ten years, Israel…
Foxman: will not only continue to be a start-up nation model but will also begin to be a spiritual and cultural center uniting the three great faiths.
Dershowitz: will face great dangers from Iran and from more sophisticated weaponry as the technological gap narrows.
Klein: will be even stronger and more Jews will move there.
An independent Palestinian state…
Foxman: will only come about if the leadership of the Palestinian people begins to educate its children toward coexistence and peace.
Dershowitz: if peaceful and committed to the prevention of terrorism, is in the best interest of Israel.
About the Author: Harvey Rachlin is an award-winning author of thirteen books including “Lucy’s Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein’s Brain,” which was adapted for the long-running History Channel series “History’s Lost and Found.” He is also a lecturer at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.
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