We Need To Talk

Ezra Cohen

For anyone who’s been living without internet connection, four weeks ago Jack Cohen wrote an article on this website. At the time, I thought I’d let things cool down and maybe do some revision, but with exams done and camp approaching, I’ve laid out a few points that I think follow on from the previous discussion.

It was great to see a debate within the movement, and there seemed to be some agreement by its conclusion with a few of the article’s fundamental points. However, there was one common – and concerning – theme underlying almost every response to the article; people generally agreed that there was room for improvement in the movement, but then suggested that bogrim should contact the mazkirut to advance that process. This suggestion is missing the point by more than a little, and for a number of reasons.

First, it’s worth noting that bogrim have shared their concerns and ideas with members of the mazkirut on a number of occasions. Many of these bogrim also feel that this course of action has not produced much in the way of change.

Second, any consideration of Bnei Akiva’s fundamental values would show that privately sharing one’s concerns with the mazkirut squarely contradicts those values. In particular, if Bnei Akiva is a boger-led tnua, surely we should share our ideas for the movement with fellow bogrim at the earliest and every opportunity.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, I really cannot fathom who benefits from this approach. Let’s say I have an idea for Bnei Akiva; I could contact the mazkirut with that proposal, and if all goes to plan, the six of us might get to discuss it. They might even be able to improve upon it. However, what they will never be able to do is channel the thoughts of dozens of talented bogrim who are left out of that conversation. The discussions that came from Jack’s article are a good example of what that group has to offer; although one thread went seriously off track, on other issues all kinds of bogrim interacted in a constructive way. If Jack had just followed the universal advice to ‘contact the mazkir’, none of us would have known about those individuals or their ideas. The mazkirut put a lot of time into our movement, and I think we’re all grateful for that immense contribution, but I want people – not just the mazkir – to criticise one another’s suggestions so that we can improve upon them.

So, what should the process look like then? I’m inclined to say that some of the discussions on the Facebook group are a template for where we can go next. First, a boger with a passion for a particular problem in the movement should start a thread about that issue on the group. Anyone who has anything to contribute would then pile in, doing their best to keep their posts concise.

Now, clearly this approach is incomplete. Ideas cannot progress from a Facebook conversation to action without an intervening stage. However, these discussions would hopefully move in a productive direction, unearthing innovative ideas and the committed individuals who are willing to put in a little extra effort to help them come to fruition. Once the conversation reaches a natural conclusion, that thread could then form the basis for a group to meet and consider the issue, armed with the knowledge of who wants to get involved and some of the ideas that they can consider.

I should emphasise here that I am not asking for less mazkirut involvement. On the contrary, I passionately believe that it’s not good enough for the mazkirut to tell a boger that they should pursue their proposal as a pet project. If the leadership and a number of bogrim feel that an idea should be pursued, both have to take some part of the responsibility for the fate of that project. These ideas are unlikely to advance very far without the participation of the Bnei Akiva leadership, and there shouldn’t have to be a choice between addressing the mazkir or the movement. Instead, the mazkirut could engage with these forums and try to ensure their own participation in some form within every committee.

Finally, there may be considerations of confidentiality on occasion, and bogrim should always feel able to privately contact the mazkirut. While I’m listing caveats, I’ll add that this approach obviously won’t solve everything, and there might be the odd keyboard warrior to contend with. But that is only a call to action for the silent majority who have opinions and have not shared them in the past.

So if you have an innovative proposal to advance the movement, share the love, start a thread.

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