Volunteers gathered recently at Los Angeles’ West Side Jewish Community Center to study religious texts in a mediation-training session that teaches them to resolve conflicts between repeat juvenile offenders and their victims, says the Los Angeles Times. The group used a biblical story from Deuteronomy about a dead man discovered in a valley and the sacrifice of a heifer that atones for his death to discuss t’shuvah, the Hebrew word for “turning.” The word is defined as the “notion that all human beings are capable of turning away from wrongdoing and turning back toward doing the right thing,” said Daniel Sokatch of the Progressive Jewish Alliance. The alliance, in conjunction with the Los Angeles-based addiction recovery center Beit T’Shuvah, oversees the mediations through the Jewish Community Justice Project. About 30 volunteers have handled 200 cases since mediations began in December 2002. A second group of volunteers finished 40 hours of training this spring.
Although the project is administered through the alliance and based on t’shuvah, neither mediators nor participants must be Jewish. Said Sokatch: Jews have “an obligation to repair the larger community for everyone in it.” The project grew out of the alliance’s criminal justice working group