I read a great story yesterday about one man's efforts to increase understanding and decrease the decibel level. Mark Rosenblum, a professor at New York City's Queens College, teaches a course on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Students learn all they can, examine their stance, then present their best case - for the other side.
I'm trying to imagine having to debate for capital punishment or against abortion rights. Could I do it? Whether or not I was successful, the exercise would force me to understand the other side's point of view.
Rosenblum began the course in response to hostility on campus towards Muslim students after 9/11. His class was extremely diverse, including Orthodox Jews and Muslim student activists. Class would routinely run twice as long as its scheduled time, and students were so moved by the experience that they continued meeting on their own, after the semester ended.
Rosenblum and some students are now exploring ways to continue the format in a non-campus setting.
It's a great New York story, too. Rosenblum says: "Queens College is an educational gift. It is not a Torah academy or a Koranic school where you have segregated populations. This is a secular place where people voluntarily come together to get an education. That is the heritage of this city. I have to try to take advantage of the real demographics here in New York, not as the melting pot, but as the entry point to the United States. A global city in a global world."
Read the whole story here, it's really cool.