Whisper Course: Big Ideas in Small Doses

CIVIL DISCOURSE WHISPER COURSE

2019:  Monday, April 29 – Friday, May 31

In the spring of 2019, the Kol Emeth community partnered with Congregation Gesher L’Torah of Alpharetta, GA  to explore Mussar practice on civil discourse. 

Over a five-week period, participants used the Whisper Course format to explore what Judaism teaches about how we might speak and listen across political divides, both within our Kol Emeth / Gesher L’Torah communities and beyond.

Here’s how the Whisper Course format works:

  • On Mondays, participants receive an email from whispercourse@gmail.com with study materials and an exercise to do on your own.
  • On Wednesdays, participants get another email with more materials, a practice activity to reinforce the concept, and an invitation to anonymously share their reflections on the exercises.
  • The final email of the week will arrive on Fridays, featuring a summary of  the week’s lesson and anonymous responses from others in the class.

Interested in learning more, or joining the next Whisper Course cohort? Please email us at whisper@kolemeth.org.

B’lvracha / ברכה (with blessing),

The Whisper Course Team

Rabbi David Booth | Rabbi Michael Bernstein | Rabbi Amy Eilberg | Ethan Kuniyoshi

 

FURTHER RESOURCES ON CIVIL DISCOURSE

The Making of a Mensch from Let it Ripple on Vimeo.

 

FAQ

What is a Whisper Course?
A whisper course is type of course designed to create a virtual learning community through email. At Google, these types of courses support on-the-job microlearning across a variety of topics—from coaching to inclusion. When people are busy, these short, spaced lessons may help them retain what’s important. We’re piloting Kol Emeth’s first whisper course around civil discourse. We see this as a model that, if successful, could be used for regular Jewish learning on a variety of topics.

What is Mussar?
Mussar is a Jewish practice to repair the self and the world. Mussar teaches that the first commandment in the Torah is to create the self. We exist between a light and shadow side of the self. Study and intention are capable of effecting long lasting change as we choose the light. Mussar believes that people are neither good nor bad but that we are capable of orienting ourselves through effort towards good and blessing.

Why this Course? Why Now?
The period between Passover and Shavuot offers an opportunity for self improvement. There is a long-standing practice in our tradition that after experiencing the redemption of Passover, we ready ourselves to receive Torah by working to improve the self. In this way, when we arrive at Shavuot we will be open to the possibilities that revelation offers. Many people suggest that civil discourse is broken in the United States today, with people rarely engaging with others of a differing political viewpoint. The risk to that situation is that it first  breeds distance, then judgment, and then intolerance. Further, so much of what does pass for public discourse is insulting and demeaning. Too often differences in viewpoint are transformed into irreconcilable personal and moral distance. By focusing on Jewish ethics of speech, we believe we can help inject more kindness into our words. We also can work on cultivating more compassion for others by practicing silence, and increase our capacity to listen even when listening is initially painful and hard.  Over the course of the five-week whisper course, we explore five topics needed to repair speech and civil discourse: Compassion, Curiosity, Silence, and Speech.

Everyone is welcome in our egalitarian Jewish community