WHITEFISH BAY— The Israel Center and Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation are hosting a series of discussions about Israel and Palestinian coexistence at the Harry & Rose Family Jewish Community Center, 6255 N. Santa Monica Blvd., in Whitefish Bay.
Leading the discussions will be Keren Fraiman, director of research and evaluation at the iCenter for Israel Education. Fraiman is also on the faculty at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. She teaches Israel education classes and classes related to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The first of the four “Hot Topics for Cold Nights” sessions will take place on Thursday, Feb. 8, from 7-8:30 p.m., for free and open to all. Subjects to be explored at the four sessions include democracy, religious expression, pluralism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the possibilities of coexistence.
Fraiman plans to bring resources – in writing, video, or in other formats – to the sessions, so that participants can hear from those who actually live in the region.
The goal will not be for Fraiman to convince others of her own views. “It’s not going to be a lecture,” she said.
Rather, Fraiman hopes for a civil discussion that will make it easier for people to talk with the “other” and not have them speak past one another. She said she uses a “thematic” and “values-based” approach that usually keeps things respectful, even though emotions can run high when some of these issues are discussed.
“This is a series that is built upon the value of loving Israel,” said Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Milwaukee Jewish Federation. “We will seek to understand current issues in Israel by asking questions, digging beneath issues that can be divisive and sometimes incendiary in order to better understand.”
“Our goal is not debate for the sake of winning an argument, but honestly and openly engaging with the questions for the sake of knowing more, loving Israel with a robust and rich love. Our moderator is thoughtful and brilliant; I chose her after traveling to Israel with her and witnessing her work at the iCenter.”
Fraiman and Kahn met in Israel while participating in an educational event in June.
“I view these kinds of conversations as educational,” Fraiman said. “We ought to be able to enter the space in an intellectual way but also recognizing that emotions are involved.”
It’s also of value to understand other perspectives different from our own, she said.
Fraiman was a Schusterman Israel Scholar and served as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces. She received her Ph.D. in international relations and security studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The four “Hot Topics for Cold Nights” sessions will take place on Thursdays, 7-8:30 p.m., for free and open to all. The discussion dates are: Feb. 8, Israel as Jewish and Democratic: Explorations, Implications and Questions; Feb. 22, Religious Expression, Pluralism, and Control in Contemporary Israel; March 8, Exploring the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict through Multiple Narratives; and March 22, Destined to Live Together: Looking ahead to the possibilities of coexistence.