Seven traits characterize an uncultivated person and seven a learned one.

A learned person does not begin speaking before one who is greater than he in wisdom or in years;
he does not interrupt the words of his fellow;
he does not answer impetuously;
he questions with relevance to the subject and he replies accurately;
he discusses first things first and last things last;
about something he has not heard he says, 'I have not heard';
and he acknowledges the truth.

And the reverse of these characterize an uncultivated person.
Pirke Avot 5:9.

Borough Park Symposium IV
Messianic Jewish Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Guidelines for Group Discussion


The symposium covers a complex and emotionally-charged topic, and will go beyond earlier symposiums by including a panel discussion with non-Jewish observers, including Christian academics and both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. In addition, we will stay together in one large group for Q&A and discussion after presentation, rather than breaking into small groups as we’ve done in past events. This will simplify the whole process, but present some challenges as well. To facilitate this large group discussion format, and to respond to the special dynamics of this topic, we present the following guidelines:

  1. Remarks from the floor can include both questions addressed to a presenter or presenters and brief statements of opinion or insight. Questions should include a specific point for response from the presenter.
  2. Please keep both types of remarks brief and to the point. Moderators will not allow participants to make their own position statements from the floor during the discussion time, or to present a speech under the guise of an extended question.
  3. Our symposium by its very nature brings together a variety of viewpoints. Please don’t expect or push for general agreement from the participants. Remember, “We desire to preserve the unity and secure the future of the Messianic Jewish movement and our common mission through respectful dialogue, without acrimony even in the face of critical disagreements.”
  4. The moderator will seek to give everyone who wants to a chance to speak. After you’ve spoken, you will go to the end of the line until all who wish to speak   have their chance to do so. So use your initial time wisely. Questions will be limited to two at a time.
  5. Conversely, if you have waited awhile to speak and someone else has already asked your question or made your point, don’t simply repeat what’s already been said. Discussion time is limited and should be free of needless repetition.
  6. Please refrain from:
  • Pontificating, grandstanding, and ad hominem statements. Watch your rhetoric.
  • Attacking a straw man. It is all too easy to misunderstand or misrepresent the other’s position and then demolish it, but this does not lead to understanding or being understood.
  • Dominating the conversation. Respect the pace of the discussion. Discipline yourself to be concise in your statements, and to leave room for others.
  • Interrupting.


It’s good to recall the purpose statement issued at our first Symposium seven years ago:

The purpose of the Symposium is to provide a forum for members of the broader Messianic Jewish community to articulate their beliefs with an expectation that they will receive a respectful hearing, but without the expectation that agreement concerning these beliefs will be achieved.  The Symposium is designed to provide an internal platform for leaders to better understand each another and the various positions held within the Messianic movement.

In addition it is hoped that the Symposium will facilitate ongoing theological discussion among members of the broader Messianic Jewish community and lead towards a greater mutual understanding within the movement, providing opportunities to deepen personal relationships and foster fellowship in the Messiah.