Brit Lashon HaTov — Covenant of Good Speech

Brit Lashon HaTov originally was written by Congregation B’nai Jeshurun (New York City) under the guidance of Rabbi Felicia Sol. Their goal, and ours, is to foster the kind of constructive communication that will truly enable our shul to be a Kehillah Kedoshah: a sacred community. Specifically, this covenant addresses an aspiration that we (like our brothers and sisters at B’nai Jeshurun – "thoughtful, creative, committed, sometimes boisterous, and often opinionated") speak, write, meet, email, and phone each other in ways that demonstrate tolerance and respect.

"Everyone is created in G!d's Image." (Genesis 1:27)

* Invite and encourage everyone's participation.
* Assume the best intentions on the part of your listener.
* Do not engage in lashon hara – gossip, rumor mongering, slander.

"Everyone has a place in the Torah." (Sefat Emet on Parashat Bamidar)

* Seek to understand others' opinions before yours is understood.
* Work to gain insights from views other than your own.

"Disagree for the sake of Heaven." (Pirke Avot 5:19)

* Seek to clarify misunderstandings productively.
* Ask a factual question to determine if your assumptions are correct before deciding there is a problem.
* Treat your conversational partner as you would want to be treated.

"There is a time to keep silent and a time to speak." (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

* Greet questions with a moment of silence to give everyone ample time to formulate a thoughtful response.
* Communicate your own thoughts and speak for yourself, not for other people.
* Understand the roles and responsibilities that congregants, staff and rabbis have in a particular matter so there is real clarity about who is responsible for making a decision.
* Seek to understand when it is time to keep silent.

"Words are powerful" (Proverbs 18:21)

* Appreciate the spirit and passion of our community as it is reflected in diverse opinions.
* Strive towards listening and hearing each other as members of a holy community–

  • In public meetings;
  • In community forms;
  • In havurot;
  • In classes;
  • In email;
  • On the phone;
  • At Temple; and
  • V'al kol Yisrael, v'al kol yoshvei teyvel.

 

Although we strive to keep this covenant, sometimes we fall short. We try to recognize those times and apologize to those we have harmed. We try again. We are human.

 

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