Promoting Tolerance Across Affiliations in Israel
Targum Shlishi Supports Gesher Media Course
(Miami, December 20, 2015) – Targum Shlishi helped support the Gesher Media Course, an innovative initiative designed to build bridges and shatter stereotypes. The course brought together a group of fifteen leading Israeli media personalities from different backgrounds ranging from ultra-orthodox to religious to secular. In addition to their varied backgrounds, participants were drawn from a range of media outlets, including print, digital, television, and radio. The group discussions focused not merely the internal challenges facing Israel today, but the ways in which the media perpetuates damaging stereotypes that influence public opinion in Israeli society at large.
The motivation for this initiative was to address the ways in which the media reports on the serious issue of religious tension in Israel. That tension is threatening the very cohesion of Israel and the Jewish people, according to Gesher’s leaders, and working with the media was a way to influence these divides. “Media professional today have a disproportionally high level of influence on public opinion, stereotypes, and perceptions of ‘the other,’” says Yoni Sherizen, Gesher’s Director of Resource and Program Development. “Something must be done to foster tolerance in place of hatred, shared responsibility instead of fear, and break down the barriers of stigma and anger.”
The comprehensive course began in early 2015, with ten meetings and site visits in Israel over the course of six months, and a six-day trip to New York. During the course, the group of media professionals, from diverse backgrounds—one-third ultra-orthodox, one-third secular, and one-third religious—met with key voices in the global media industry, engaged in debate on some of Israel’s most sensitive subjects in a safe environment, and cultivated a deeper understanding of the global Jewish community.
“Strife and divisions within Israel impact the Jewish world as a whole, which is part of why the Gesher Media Course is so vitally important. Unfortunately, the media has been exacerbating the situation by emphasizing the divisiveness—ultimately, our similarities are much stronger than our differences, and it would be wise for all of us, including the media, to remember that,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi.
The media professionals who participated in the course all completed a media project as part of their participation. As a result, articles were published online and in print and several radio stories were produced on topics ranging from extending the chief rabbi’s term to a murder at a gay pride parade.
Participants responded positively to the course. One reported: “I gained new perspective, plenty of food for thought, new friends and I was deeply influenced by the course.” The success of the course motivated Gesher to offer it again in 2016, with a new group of media professionals scheduled to begin in the new year.
Gesher has dedicated its work for more than forty years to bridging the gaps between different segments of Israeli society so that together they can develop an identity that reflects a shared commitment to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Gesher’s innovative programs impact upon the current and future leadership of Israel, infusing Israel’s youth, army, police force, communities and the public at large with Jewish values and culture and by advancing a vibrant and inclusive vision of Judaism. Gesher’s dynamic, often life-changing educational and cultural programs create and strengthen Jewish identity. In facilitating dialogue and mediation between Jews of all kinds of backgrounds, Gesher has reached more than one million Jews since its founding. For more information, go to Gesher’s website: http://www.gesherusa.org/
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Aryeh5.