Words that wound and words that heal

treeAs a non-partisan organization devoted to empowering teens to grow into healthy and connected Jewish adults, Moving Traditions was inspired to see a woman top a presidential ticket, and that she spoke to the vision of a society built on equity, access, and dignity for all.

Many Jewish teens saw this as a sign that society was progressing and new horizons were opening. While this candidate did not win, as my colleague Rabbi Tamara Cohen points out, it is important to the next generation that we celebrate women taking risks and stepping into leadership.

Much more problematic — and what causes us great anguish today — is that Jewish teens heard many harsh words this election season: “locker room talk,” name-calling, racism, misogyny, mockery, demonizing, and ridicule. And the man who used this speech as the basis for his campaign was rewarded for this behavior.

How do we counter this life lesson from the political world? How do we assure Jewish teens that decency and civility and kindness are more valuable than a sharp tongue?

As my colleague Rabbi Daniel Brenner teaches, over three thousand years ago our sages wrote, “A healing tongue is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 15:4)

In the days ahead, we will need to find words that heal the divide between people with different backgrounds, fears, and beliefs.

We will need to hold up for ourselves and the next generation words that are a “tree of life” — that nourish and protect all who stand underneath their branches.

In the days ahead, let us work together to find these words, within the Jewish community and beyond.

With gratitude for all you do to help Moving Traditions guide Jewish teens,

Deborah Meyer

Educators: Click here to learn more about talking to teens in this political environment

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