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We Need to Talk

Wherever more than two people come together, conflict can arise - and if you wait long enough, it will. In our Jewish community, it is even flirted with time and again that conflicts serve us as a fetish, as if, for example, Jewish communities could not really exist without conflict. In the last 2-3 years, due to many changes in the Jewish community in Dresden and Saxony, some of these conflicts have become very noticeable again (newly founded communities in Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz, changes in the board of the Hasenberg community, ongoing renovation of the New Synagogue, the possibility of establishing a larger Jewish institution in Dresden together with the city and much more). Whether we like it or not, it is always and still our task to face up to these conflicts and do everything we can to resolve them in such a way that peaceful and, in the best case, fruitful coexistence is not only not impossible, but also becomes a reality. And that brings us to the centre of the topic.

Foto von Nikola Johnny Mirkovic auf Unsplash
Foto von Nikola Johnny Mirkovic auf Unsplash

It starts with how we deal with conflicts and their resolution, because it is well known that there are different ways to achieve this. While some want to present conflicts as undramatically as possible, others seek to resolve them strictly among themselves, in the back room so to speak, without the involvement of the Jewish and non-Jewish public. Still others favour a clear approach involving the public, and a few prefer a polemical debate in the marketplace. Even here, opinions are often divided. However, we can make use of these and many other differences if we first recognise that there are different ways of resolving conflicts, and all of them are justified. I may like one method or another more or less, but I can recognise that others make a different choice. If we can do that - as a first step - then we have diversity on our side here too. There will be things that are discussed in the back room and things that are played out in the open. There will be articles, discussions and events that focus on community and common ground, so that each of us has the opportunity to get involved in the conflicts in our own way and find new solutions together on a broad basis.

If we take this first step as an example for many others, it could already be a viable path.

The Jewish Community of Dresden does not see itself in a position to dictate to other people how they should live their Judaism. Neither the community as a whole nor individual members of the community - whether they are religiously motivated or active in the community organisation - can do this. This attitude has nothing to do with renunciation, but with the deep conviction that tolerance and mutual recognition are the key to good coexistence. That is why we experience the diversity in our community and in the entire Jewish community as an enrichment and treasure. We also see this in the Jewish tradition through many different approaches, lifestyles and ways of life in hundreds of cultural contexts, in which Jews have incorporated foreign customs, beliefs and culture into the tradition of Judaism and have also left their influence on the cultures around them. We believe that the pressure to adapt and assimilate within Judaism, especially when it is expected or demanded from outside (consciously or unconsciously), is not good for us Jews.

A frequently voiced criticism of this approach is that too much tolerance can easily slip into arbitrariness and thus betray values and traditions. This is indeed a danger that we are aware of. We are countering it with two important considerations and measures. On the one hand, we connect with our traditions on a daily basis, either by following them or by critically engaging with them, and on the other hand, we demand the same tolerance and recognition from others, both Jewish and non-Jewish partners. It follows that we are not indifferent to whether and to what extent we are regarded as equal. However, as we are in the fortunate position of being a very lively, young and growing community, we are not necessarily dependent on external recognition.

Foto von Charles Lamb auf Unsplash
Foto von Charles Lamb auf Unsplash

This gives us the freedom to live our Judaism according to our tradition and as we see fit. This freedom applies both to the community as a whole and to each individual member. That is why we do not need to fight for recognition or equal rights, but will continue on our path calmly and confidently. In doing so, we expressly want to be measured by the fact that we neither hurt nor disrespect other players in the Jewish community along the way. There are now so many Jews in Dresden again that it is no longer necessary to agree on all issues, and yet not enough to avoid getting in each other's way with different emphases and approaches.

In an ideal world, we would like all Jews in Dresden to find what they are looking for in the community without great difficulty and for everyone to follow the paths of others with curiosity and interest and occasionally participate in them.

In order to achieve this, we believe that an unconditional encounter is required, which picks up all participants where they place themselves, without making quick and harsh judgements. This is always difficult when there are already traditional, unspoken or personal conflicts. Whenever we beat around the bush or believe that we have to bend ourselves, perhaps to spare the other person, we start to be less than honest with each other. Honesty is not only the most difficult aspect of conflict resolution, it is also a necessary prerequisite for substantial progress.

Of course, we know that mistrust or rejection of other positions and beliefs does not arise out of nowhere and usually has a longer rather than shorter history. We also know that no one can be expected to ignore the experiences they have had with their counterparts. Nevertheless, it seems to be helpful in the current situation to dare to experiment with each other. This is not about fulfilling wishes and expectations from outside our community, and there is certainly no need to rush. Overcoming internal contradictions and giving up a fortress mentality is, as we are currently experiencing in society, a difficult but important task for the future, which should be carried out calmly and without pressure. Repeated attempts are certainly an important part of the patience required for this.

We have learnt from experience that with this kind of mutual interaction, even difficult conflicts, e.g. over the distribution of money, power or reputation, can be tackled much more constructively. None of us necessarily needs the recognition of others to justify our existence or our self-image, but living and working together becomes easier and more successful with every bit of tolerance.


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