Alumnus emphasizes importance of peace-building

Sid Topol with the Topol Fellows in Nonviolence Practice: Armine Avetisyan, Heller MA'​19 (Armenia)​, Morgan Redmond, Heller MA'19 ​(U.S.) ​and Kathryn Fahey, Heller MA'19​ (U.S.)​. Photo/Mike Lovett

By Brian Klotz

Addressing the attendees at the third annual Topol Lecture in Nonviolence Practice, Rabbi Ron Kronish ’68 stressed that the key to true, lasting peace is not in the act of peace-making, but in peace-building -- and emphasized that there is a difference.

“Peace-making is what you read about every morning in The New York Times with your coffee,” Kronish, the founding director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, explained during the lecture on Oct. 20. “It is the work of lawyers and politicians.” 

kronishKronish (right) said that peace-building, on the other hand, is the work of “everybody else,” including religious leaders, educators and activists. “It is they who bring people together to enter into a dialogical and educational process that is aimed at helping people figure out how to live in peace with each other,” Kronish said.

The Topol Lecture in Nonviolence Practice was established in 2015 when activist philanthropist Sid Topol partnered with Brandeis in the training of future leaders capable of using such methods to promote peace and reduce violence in the world.  A U.S. World War II veteran born to Polish immigrants, Topol led an exceptional career in engineering and business. He later returned to Boston with his family and committed himself to promoting nonviolence and diplomacy in the Middle East and throughout the world. At Brandeis, Topol funds the Topol Fellowships in Nonviolence Practice, which each year help support three students in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management’s master’s program in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence.

As a Brandeis student in the 1960s, Kronish was deeply inspired by professors such as John Roche, Herbert Marcuse and Abraham Maslow. Kronish became active in the civil rights movement of the era, leading to a career in seeking nonviolent resolutions to conflict, including his work with the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel.

With decades of experience in fostering interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, Kronish shared with attendees some of the lessons he has learned, as well as his vision for what needs to be done to achieve peace.

“A peace agreement, the work of the lawyers, is the easy part,” he says. “The long-term part is what I call the ‘other peace process.’ There will be a desperate need for a massive educational campaign to change the hearts and minds of people on both sides to understand the benefits of living in peaceful coexistence.”

Kronish concluded with an acknowledgement of the enormity of this task, as well as its importance. “This will not be simple, nor will it be quick, but there is no time like the present to begin paving the way.”

Topol himself closed the event with a brief but poignant address, describing himself as “a very lucky person.” Noting that he grew up with modest means, he said that he feels fortunate “to be able to fund programs like this.”

Echoing Kronish’s sentiment about the extreme difficulties associated with achieving peace, Topol affirmed that “we have to stop killing each other” and offered a lesson from the Talmud: “We are not expected to finish the job, but we cannot desist from working on it.”

Categories: Events, Giving
Date: October 30, 2017