From the Co-chairs

Kirk Lowery kelowery at
Sat Feb 17 10:53:51 EST 2001


On behalf of the co-chairs, allow me to comment on the diversity/worldview 
issues that have cropped up in several threads this past week:

First, we thank everyone for their restraint and good manners during 
heated exchanges on sensitive and controversial subjects. As we all know, 
this has not always been the case on B-Hebrew, and we appreciate your 
efforts to deal with controversy politely.

B-Hebrew is an OPEN list: anyone from anywhere in the world may subscribe 
and join in. Before the advent of world-wide network connectivity, people 
from diverse world-views and faith commitments rarely interacted directly, 
"virtually" face-to-face.

Now, many people are in dialogue with others of radically different 
perspectives for the very first time. They have never had to communicate 
with others who did not share a common vocabulary and mode of thinking. 
Some are unaware that modes of expression that are customary to them might 
be offensive to others. They have to learn this by experience. That 
necessarily means someone is going to be offended -- unintentionally! And 
the bad news is that this is going to happen over and over again as new 
folk subscribe to B-Hebrew. 

In order for communication to be successful between two parties, those 
parties must both be committed to making sure they understand and are 
understood correctly. The alternative is confusion, frustration and angry 
exchanges that only hurt and do not help. How can we on B-Hebrew achieve 
communication? Here are some suggestions:

1. This is an OPEN list. Apart from a general outer boundary for content 
limits and rules of "netiquette", the co-chairs do not attempt to control 
the content or rhetoric of forum members. Expect the discussion to be 
"rough and tumble" sometimes. If you express an idea/opinion/position, be 
prepared for strongly (but politely!) expressed disagreement.

2. Distinguish between intentional and unintentional offence. Instead of 
rebuking someone publicly, do it privately, making it clear in your 
message that it is private. Our practice as co-chairs has been to 
communicate with members who violate our charter off-list. Experience 
shows that members appreciate this consideration of their feelings and 
that public humiliation rarely secures co-operation.

3. There are, unfortunately, a few who enjoy "baiting" others: 
deliberately making statements which they hope will provoke others. Don't 
take the "bait." Ignore them. Use your "delete" key. Don't respond. Or 
respond only to that part of their message which is substantive. Sidestep 
the "hotspots" unless you have something new to contribute to an old, 
often rehearsed argument.

Finally, sometimes it is said that our forum is "dominated" by one person 
or view point or other. It can appear that way. We have approximately 520 
active subscribers to B-Hebrew. Less than 25% of that number actually 
post, and there is a core group of about 25 active and regular posters. 
Those who are willing to post frequently and regularly respond to the 
posts of others are going to tend to set the "tone" of the forum. By their 
very willingness to contribute, their interests and point of view will be 
frequently heard.

But no one has the ability to *hinder* the introduction of other topics or 
points of view, except for the co-chairs. In that sense, our forum cannot 
be dominated by anyone.

And now, the co-chairs suggest that we return to the text of the Hebrew 


Co-chair, B-Hebrew
Kirk E. Lowery, Ph.D.                         <Kirk at>
Associate Director, Westminster Hebrew Institute
General Editor, Project "eL", The XML Leningrad Codex
Chair, Computer Assisted Research Group, Society of Biblical Literature

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