Change-maker Leads Intentional Listening Exercise at Yeshiva in Israel

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Alumna Sarah Fort Sholklapper Leads Intentional Listening Exercise at Yeshiva in Israel

I led an intentional listening exercise for my community at an traditional, egalitarian yeshiva in Jerusalem. I am rabbinical student here for a year-long program of intense learning.

We wanted to enhance the communal aspect of and build safe space here at the Yeshiva. Rabbinical students from around the world and of different streams of Judaism attend the Yeshiva, as well as individuals who want to engage in rigorous text study for themselves. Building community is a priority and a challenge here, as we have so many future leaders coming from such vastly different backgrounds.

As I know from my experiences as a NewGround fellow, only when people are able to truly listen to each other–and know that they are truly being listened to–can meaningful community and dialogue develop. Responses to the exercise were overwhelmingly positive. Many of the students had never learned active/intentional listening, and spoke of how powerful an experience it was. Often it was much more difficult than they expected, and they found it hard though rewarding to stick to the script. One person said that they were surprised that, when they kept with the structure of intentional listening, the conversation grew to have more depth and complexity than they thought was possible. Another said that they realized that the simply act of saying, “I am ready to talk, are you ready to listen” made them realize that they are much too passive in engaging in the lives of those around them. Many people came up to me afterward saying what a great activity it was, and I am so grateful for my time with NewGround that I learned these skills that enable me to better my community no matter where I am.

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