Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts
Volume 12, Numbers 3-4 (Fall 5761/2000)
"Jewish Approaches to Conflict Resolution"
CONFLICT PREVENTION AND MEDIATION IN THE JEWISH TRADITION
Gerald M. Steinberg
Specific cultural factors are important in framing the approaches to conflict and dispute resolution in particular societies. In the traditional Jewish framework, examples and principles related to conflict resolution are found in biblical sources, the Talmud, and other texts, as well as in commentaries. In particular, the Talmudic emphasis on compromise in the context of monetary disputes, the praise of judges who were able to mediate resolutions instead of issuing legal judgments, and the admonishment to preserve the peace in the community are frequently cited. Leaders, including rabbis, are enjoined to act cautiously and accept compromise in order to prevent conflict and to preserve the peace and welfare of the community.
In this essay, Jewish approaches to mediation and conflict resolution will be analyzed using existing academic frameworks, where applicable, in order to identify the key elements. On this basis, the application of these approaches to conflict resolution in Israel and the Jewish world is considered.
IS COMPROMISE POSSIBLE IN MATTERS BETWEEN MAN AND GOD?
Modern methods for settling conflicts are based on the assumption that it is necessary to find a roundabout way to provide a solution without attempting to resolve the sources of the conflict itself. One of the ways is the compromise that was pointed to as the preferred halakhic option in financial conflicts. However, when we deal with mitzvot (good deeds) and our commitment to God, it seems that there is no option for compromise, and therefore religious conflicts are doomed to last forever.
This article discusses the assumption that no compromise is possible in matters of commitment to Heaven, and suggests a way that enables a non-compromise by principle. It also considers the extent to which halakhah can be implemented and upholds the attempt to implement it fully. The article considers this issue through Aaron's behavior during the incident of the Golden Calf, which brings forth several options to settle religious conflicts. Finally it sets restrictive conditions on using these methods for compromise in matters of man's commitment to God.
AVOIDING INTERVENTION AS A MODEL FOR DE-FACTO RELIGIOUS COMPROMISE
Halakhic rulings of rabbis have been used in recent years regarding burning issues on the Israeli social and political agenda. By presenting clearly defined positions, these rulings preclude compromise and impede the reasonable resolution of conflict.
This article marshals an array of responsa from various Jewish communities throughout the ages wherein leading rabbis restrained from reproach or withheld taking position on sensitive issues. The various rationales for restraint are presented and the article posits a halakhic category of restraint which resides in a dialectic relationship with the command to rebuke.
LESSONS FROM INTER-COMMUNAL CONFLICT DURING THE SECOND TEMPLE PERIOD
Jewish society of the Second Temple period was fragmented, sectarianism was rampant, and strife was widespread. There was corruption at the highest levels of leadership and the atmosphere was often charged with messianism. Inter-communal conflict often seemed to be the natural order of things and the results of all this were catastrophic. There are, though, a number of lessons to be learned from all this, particularly regarding the need for pluralism in the intellectual and religious spheres of Judaism, but within the framework of some agreed upon common ground. It is also especially important for communal and religious leaders to recognize the existence of problems, even if sometimes they are the source and cause of those problems.
THE ROLE OF NON-JEWISH AUTHORITIES IN RESOLVING CONFLICTS WITHIN JEWISH
COMMUNITIES IN THE EARLY MODERN PERIOD
This article presents examples of four categories of Jewish communal conflict in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries where non-Jewish authorities were called upon to resolve the strife. The categories are: supracommunal disputes; intracommunal struggles between the community establishment and rival factions over institutional legitimacy; conflicts between communal institutions and powerful individuals; and disputes between individual Jews. The author concludes that while non-Jewish intervention usually was at the behest of at least one of the Jewish parties, such intervention was always according to the authorities' interests and both resulted from and contributed to the weakening of Jewish autonomous institutions.
THE CONTROVERSY OVER RABBI EPHRAIM LANIADO'S
INHERITANCE OF THE RABBINATE IN ALEPPO
During the eighteenth century a controversy erupted in Aleppo over the appointment of R. Ephraim Laniado as successor to his father in the Rabbinate. It was linked to an earlier controversy concerning the Sephardic Jewish traders - the Francos - who had settled in the community as to whether they were subject to the communal regulations. In the eighteenth century, the population of Aleppo was caught between change or adherence to traditional ways in all realms of life. The feeling of change was stronger within the Jewish community due to the settlement of the Francos in the city. The growth of new elite groups altered the balance of power within Jewish society and created new foci of power alongside the traditional leadership. Changes began to take place in the Weltanschauung of social unity and common responsibility. New elite groups arose based upon political or economic status and not upon any religious status. Social meetings with non-Jews facilitated the penetration of modern European social concepts within the Jewish community. The accepted principle of inequality by which a pedigreed nobility had been granted extra rights and a privileged social status was no longer self-understood. The custom of spiritual leadership legacies within Jewish society no longer fit the patterns of social principles that had penetrated from Western countries. Blind obedience to authority and conformity to social institutions were questioned in some quarters. The controversy over rabbinical inheritance revealed the cracks in the leadership of the chief rabbi who had correctly diagnosed the social agitation within his community but erred in his appraisal of the new forces that had come to power within the socio-economic and political framework which was in the midst of a process of change.
The "Hamburg System" -
A Tolerant Application to a Troublesome Resolution
Hamburg was one of the first Jewish communities in Germany where a Reform Synagogue, a "Temple," was established (1817). In spite of its long tradition of strict orthodoxy, no "separate community" (Austrittsgemeinde) was created. Instead a unique resolution was initiated, the "Hamburg System." The members of the Hamburg community could choose to belong to one of three differently oriented religious worship units (Kultusverbande):
Each unit had its own way of leading its Kultus, while their children could get the corresponding religious instruction. However most of the other institutions belonged to the Hamburg community as a whole and were held under strict Orthodox supervision, such as kashrut in the Jewish hospital, the public soup-kitchens, the traditional observance of the brit milah, etc.).
- The Reform Temple (since 1817).
- The Orthodox Synagogue (since 1868).
- The Conservative Synagogue (the "New Dammtor," since 1894).
This essay will start with a definition of the Hamburg System, going back to its roots and development, and analyzing the conditions which eventually made the system workable: A rather democratic distribution of the social tasks between the community's members, economic considerations, the involvement of the Senate of the town, the personalities of the leading rabbis, and the role of women behind the scenes, illustrated by a true anecdote.
RECONCILING POWER AND EQUALITY IN INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS:
A VOTING METHOD FROM RABBI KROCHMAL OF KREMSIER
Barry O'Neill and Bezalel Peleg
Organizations whose members are national governments face a problem in their choice of a voting mechanism: they need systems that recognize the greater power and contribution of the larger members while preserving some influence for the smaller ones. Voting by count and account is suggested here as providing a good compromise between power and equality. It avoids certain surprising and counterintuitive results produced by other systems that international bodies now use, such as basic votes. At the organization's founding it is easy to negotiate and it also symbolizes the accepted status relationships in an international body better than current methods do, thus giving a vote more legitimacy. For international organizations, it is the natural analogue of a two-house system. The reasons that a Jewish community in Moravia in the seventeenth century used it seem to be similar to those that make it appropriate for international organizations today.
CROSS-CULTURAL ISSUES IN COMMUNITY MEDIATION: PERSPECTIVES FOR ISRAEL
Allan Edward Barsky
Given the recent growth in the community mediation movement in Israel, this article explores cross-cultural issues that need to be considered by mediators, program developers, and academics. Using examples from a conflict between orthodox and secular Jews, this article analyzes culturally biased assumptions of a mainstream model of mediation: impartiality, linear and rational problem solving, separating people from the problem, equal bargaining power, and using objective standards. The conclusion offers suggestions for a more culturally informed approach to community mediation.
BAR-ILAN STREET: THE CONFLICT AND HOW WE TRIED TO SOLVE IT
This essay is based primarily on the author's personal experience as Chairman of the Zameret Commission, which was appointed at the request of the Israel Supreme Court to propose a solution to the problem of the use of vehicles on Bar-Ilan Street in Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Issues addressed include the way it was established, its many tasks, its methods of operation, and the response to its recommendations.
LIVING WITH NORMATIVE DUALITY: THE VALUES AT THE END
OF THE TUNNEL
Yedidia Z. Stern
Israeli society draws its values primarily from two civilizations: traditional Jewish culture and Western liberal culture. Therefore, many Israelis live in a cultural duality that sometimes expresses itself in a normative duality: halakhah and Israeli law are part of the primary and unconditional commitment of many Israelis.
Unfortunately, both halakhic law and Israeli law employ rhetoric that proclaims imperialism and exclusivity concerning their application in regulating daily life. Therefore, a hard choice emerges between militant preferences, prelude to a Kulturkampf without victors. This essay discusses this problem and suggests several solutions: Retreat of the two legal systems and adoption of a judicial pluralism by both. A model is outlined by which each of the normative systems will use its internal discourse in order to acknowledge the existence of the other, its legitimacy, its substantive importance, and the limitations within which it operates.