Events to mark the convergence of days were held in Maryland, Washington, California, Florida and elsewhere. They were initiated by The Tent of Abraham, Hagar & Sarah, a national network of Jews, Christians and Muslims, with the help of the Shalom Center
Celebration of Two Books
Philadelphia, PA, Thursday, November 16 at 7:00 PM
Meet world-renowned Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, Sufi teacher Murshid Saadi Chisti Shakur, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow for a book-signing. The three authors who wrote The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, and Muslims (Beacon, with a preface by Karen Armstrong) will speak, read, and sign at the Unitarian Society of Germantown, 6511 Lincoln Drive in Philadelphia. They will be joined by Pecki Witonsky, author of The Cave of Reconciliation (distributed by Jewish Publication Society). Bring checkbooks, buy books! Interfaith music and food will also be part of this celebration.
Sacred Seasons, Sacred Earth
Sunday October 8, 3:00 PM - 8:00 PM
A Sukkot / Ramadan celebration with education and action on how to heal our planet from global scorching. This event went very well: joyful and serious at the same time. About 225 people took part.
The talks by Rev. Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches, Prof. Khalid Blankinship of Temple University (our originally scheduled Muslim speaker was in hospital, having come down with pneumonia the day before), and Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell of the Union for Reform Judaism were inspiring.
Joy Bergey of the Interfaith Council on Climate Change led a discussion on action out of which came 100 signed postcards to legislators, and about 55 green commitment slips on people's own personal actions. Speakers made connections with the teachings of Gandhi (whose birthday was October 2) and St Francis of Assisi (whose Feast Day was October 4).
Music from the Common Ground and Spiral Song choirs, Dances of Universal Peace in which everyone joined, prayer, the pleasure of the sukkah, and a bountiful Iftar break-fast meal (enfolded by Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, and Christian blessings) raised the Spirit. People went away pleased and empowered.
The event was sponsored and organized by The Shalom Center and the Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation, with the generous offering of meeting space from the Arch Street Friends Meeting House. A special thank you goes to the Bread and Roses Community Foundation in Philadelphia for their financial support. Special thanks to Renate Woessner, who coordinated the event.
Sacred Texts: Ways to Peace or Ways to Violence? An Interfaith Conversation
hosted by Pax Christi Metro New York
Sunday, October 15th, 2006, 3:00—6:00 PM
At just the moment of history when religious conflicts have re-emerged bearing lethal dangers for each other and our planet, God has give our spiritual and religious traditions a gift of time.
This year, the sacred month of Ramadan coincides with the sacred Jewish month that includes the High Holy Days and the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Pax Christi Metro New York joined with other members of the Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah to celebrate our traditions and heed God’s call to seek peace and pursue justice. Together, we listened to each other, learned, and prayed. We sought ways to work together for peace, justice, human rights, and the healing of our wounded earth. We strove to serve one another.
(text adapted from The Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah)
Debbie Almontaser, multicultural specialist, violence prevention and diversity consultant, educator, workshop leader, and board member of the Dialogue Project which brings Jews, Christians, and other Muslims together to talk, listen, and support one another;
Sr. Kathleen Deignan, CND, professor of Religious Studies at Iona College, founder of the Iona Spirituality Institute dedicated to spiritual transformation and interfaith dialogue, participant in Iona’s Jewish Catholic dialogue and convener of “Opening to Islam”; and
Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, co-founder and co-chair of the Jewish-Palestinian Encounter program in Israel-Palestine, veteran of interfaith and Israeli-Palestinian dialogue efforts in both Israel-Palestine and North America, author, speaker, and educator.
Presenters spoke about the sacred texts of their faiths, texts used to promote peace and to justify violence. Then we joined in the discussion and celebrated our common heritage in a closing interfaith prayer service.
Discussion on How Religious Communities Can Stem Global Scorching
Sunday, October 15 at 2 pm, in room 210 of the Convention Center in Washington DC
Cassandra Carmichael of the National Council of Churches, Ibrahim Ramey of the Muslim American Society, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow (on behalf of The Shalom Center) led a discussion on how religious communities can stem global scorching. The event was part of the annual Green Festival sponsored by Coop America.
Tent of Abraham Interfaith Peace Event
Sunday, October 8 at 3:30 PM, Baltimore, MD
Pax Christi/Baltimore and other co-sponsoring groups will present a "Tent of Abraham" interfaith peace event on Sunday, October 8, 2006 from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the American Friends Service Committee building, 4806 York Road. The AFSC building is located just north of Cold Spring Lane and next to the Govans Post Office. The event will feature participation from Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.
The program will begin with gathering prayer. After the gathering prayer, there will be a panel discussion on the peace traditions of each of faiths. Panel members will be: Christian: Rev. Robert E. Albright (Campus Ministry, Towson University), Jewish: Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton (Congregation Beit Tikvah), Muslim: Imam Yahya Hendi (Muslim Chaplain, Georgetown University).
Following the panel discussion will be a brief period for prayer or personal reflection. Non-Muslim participants can be present at and silently observe the afternoon Muslim prayer. After prayer and reflection, there will be an interfaith prayer service for peace. Weather permitting, the prayer service will be held outdoors under a tent, in keeping with the Tent of Abraham theme. The prayer service leaders will be: Christian: Sr. Tricia Kirk, OSB, Jewish: Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton, Muslim:Imam Irfan Kabeeyuddin
The interfaith prayer service will conclude at sunset with sharing of food and drink to end the daily Ramadan fast.
The October 8 program is a response to the national call by the Shalom Center in Philadelphia for interfaith activities in the month of October for 2005, 2006, and 2007. Due to a unique convergence of religious calendars, religious observances or significant dates for the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths will coincide during this short time period in each year.
Orange County, California
Dear Good People at Tent of Abraham, Hagar & Sarah --
It is my honor to share with you our experience in celebrating our Sharing
Sacred Seasons event last Saturday evening.
More than 100 Members of Temple Beth El of South Orange County, St. Mary's
Episcopal Church, and The Orange County Islamic Foundation (Mission Viejo
Mosque) came together at the home of Temple Beth El under our Sukkah and
celebrated the convergence of the 3 Holy Days of Abraham.
Rabbi Krause started the program by introducing and explaining Sukkot, Rev.
Elizabeth did the same for The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and then
Sheik Yassir Faraga explained Ramadan followed by the call to prayer, which
brought us right to sunset. At this time our Muslim guests broke their fast
with dates and fruit juice and then stepped into our chapel and did their
Rev. Kathy Sandoval from the Native American Juaneno Tribe gave a blessing
over the food which we all enjoyed. The mosque and the temple had cultural
food catered while the church participated by bringing lots of cheese cake!
All guests were carefully seated and arranged so that there were equal
amounts from each faith at each table. The following framed statement
adorned each table to encourage discussion:
• Whose scriptures are these quotes or paraphrases from?
• Save a Life and You Save the World
• Do unto others as you would want done unto yourself
• Tzedakah, Zakat, Righteous Giving
• Love Thy Neighbor
Our cantor Shula Kalir Merton then sang 2 songs of peace, St, Mary's Church
sang the prayer of St. Francis, both accompanied by our pianist Nancy Fine.
Then our rabbi's wife Sherri Hofmann-Krause, along with her guitar sang a
song of peace which we all were encouraged to sing along. We all stood and
held hands or embraced and swayed from side to side as we sang along. As I
looked around our very large and now beautiful sukkah, I saw tears, and
sparks of love and reconciliation.
Sherri and Rabbi then lead us in the Havdalah Prayer while Rev. Elizabeth
held the candle and Sheik Yassir held the cup of grape juice. Also on the
tables were sachets of fragrance so everyone was able to participate in the
service and then take the sachet home with them as a gift. Father Will Crist
gave us the Dismissal prayer for Peace and our evening ended.
Thank you for empowering us to host such a heartwarming and important
gathering. We are very active in interfaith reconciliation in our community
and, thanks to some great press we were able to reach out beyond our safe
circle of influence and touch some who would not otherwise participate in
such an event.
Sande Hart, co-chair
Interfaith Gathering of Jews, Christians, and Muslims for Sukkot, Prayers for Peace, and the Muslim Holiday of Ramadan
Wednesday, October 11 at 7 PM
Temple Beth Shalom of Whittier, CA., Whittier Area Clergy Association, and the Whittier Interfaith Council celebrated an Interfaith Gathering of Jews, Christians, and Muslims for Sukkot, Prayers for Peace, and the Muslim Holiday of Ramadan
Dinner was provided in the leafy Sukkah at Temple Beth Shalom followed by a discussion.
Sukkot of Peace/Abrahamic events
Tuesday, October 10, at noon
The fourth annual "Sukkah of Peace" was held on the Campus of California State University, Chico. The event, co-sponsored by local Jewish organizations and the Celebration of Abraham, has become an annual tradition focusing on interfaith prayers for peace.
The Celebration of Abraham also hosted a reception following the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, Saturday evening, October 28 at Chico State's Laxson Auditorium. The concert began at 7:30 PM. This was the final stop of the Fes Festival's tour and was also a farewell gathering for the artists. Varieties of "ethnic" deserts were featured at the reception.
Celebration of Abraham is in its third year in Chico and brings together Jews, Christians, and Muslims to learn about one another's faiths and to get to know each other as neighbors. A large community event is held each spring, as well as various social gatherings, book discussions, and special interest events during the year. In recent years, Celebration of Abraham groups have been developed in smaller cities and towns throughout California.
Special Interfaith Gathering
Nazareth, Israel, Tuesday, October 17
We send you a lot of love from our home, to every one of you on this planet.
Yesterday (Tuesday, October 17) was the last day of the Jewish Holy days, and we had a special gathering of few hundred people in Nazaret for the Eftar, it was a great night to sit together with Jews, Christians, Muslims and Drus, and eat at the priest's House Abuna Hatum, and today is the 27th of Ramadan, and tonight is a special night for the Muslims which is called Lylat Alchader that is a special night for the Muslim around the world, we are really welcoming everyone to this land and to my home and if anyone needs any kind of help, I will be happy to help you.
God Bless you, Ibrahim Haj
Faradis, Israel, Wednesday, September 6
On September 6th, the Abrahamic Reunion met in Faradis, an Arab town in northern Israel, to issue A Call for Reconciliation. Over 80 people were hosted by group member Ibtisam Mahamid in the community center in Faradis. As a group of religious and spiritual leaders we first met in a restaurant in Faradis before the public gathering to finalize the document, A Call for Reconciliation.
At the public gathering, the Sheikh Hassan Marai of Faradis welcomed us and gave over teachings about interfaith cooperation from the Hadith. Many people present were amazed to see the large group of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze leaders coming together so soon after the Lebanon war to call for healing and reconciliation between Arabs and Jews.
Rabbi Ronen Lubich from Nir Etzion, gave a teaching about Truth and Peace from the Talmud. The Talmud teaches that for the sake of 'Shalom Bayit', peace in the home, the value of Peace overrides the value of Truth. Each religion claims to have the Truth. If we see our country as an extension of our home, and the value of Peace overrides the value of Truth -- even if we are of different beliefs, we can live together in harmony.
The first secretary of the South African embassy, Tsholo Tsheole, said that meetings like this one were part of building trust between the different communities in the Holy Land. This gathering reminded her of similar meetings that led to of the Truth and Reconciliation Commision in South Africa.
After the blessings by the religious and community leaders we broke into small listening circles, to faciliatate dialogue between the Arabs and Jews and others who were present. We closed with a prayer circle, with songs and prayer by Rabbi Yehoshua Rubin, Sister Svieta of the Beatitude Community and Sheikh Ghassan Manasra.
Please send your blessings for our next Abrahamic Reunion gathering, happening today October 17th, a multi-faith Ramadan Iftar meal hosted by Abuna Masoud Abu Hatoum in his home in Yafia, near Nazareth.
Please visit this link to see over 200 great pictures from the gathering in Faradis:
Shalom, Salaam, Eliyahu McLean, Abrahamic Reunion, coordinator and Jerusalem Peacemakers, director
A Call for Reconciliation
Given the recent conflict in Lebanon, Gaza and Northern Israel, relations between Jews and Arabs in the region have reached an all time low. A group of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze (Mowahhidoon) men and women religious leaders, the Abrahamic Reunion helps to rebuild trust among the wounded family of Abraham and empowers the voice of moderate religious leaders.
STATEMENT: In the light of the recent conflicts in our region and in remembrance today of the effects of violence in our world, the Abrahamic Reunion reaffirms our commitment to embodying an alternative to violence. Our work is to show by example the cooperation among the faiths on a small scale that we hope to encourage on a larger scale.
It is our destiny as the children of Abraham to live together. All the prophets teach us to love your neighbor as yourself; it’s now time to put this teaching into practice. Though our own communities have suffered in the recent war, we hold compassion for all the victims.
We urge all parties to uphold the ceasefire and through negotiations to resolve the core issues of the conflict. Unless consciousness shifts so that the people see that a true and just peace is possible, any ceasefire is likely to be short-lived.
Sustainable peace-building requires more than a cessation of violence, more than reconstruction of the physical infrastructure destroyed by war. Peace-building requires building relationships, gaining trust, and establishing conditions where people can experience their common humanity and learn to live side by side.
Large scale peace and reconciliation efforts have worked in other area of global conflict, such as in Northern Ireland, South Africa. Grassroots efforts and the leadership of people of faith made peace possible and sustainable, when backed up with the financial resources necessary to make real change. In Northern Ireland alone, over $650 million was donated over a period of five years for dialogue between 250,000 Catholics and Protestants – one-sixth of the population.
We urge the governments and leaders of the world to assist and support a process of reconciliation and peace-building in the Holy Land. We call on the governments of the world, the United Nations, the European Commission, aid organizations, and private foundations to immediately fund a large-scale dialogue and reconciliation program between Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze. An immediate infusion of no less than $50 million dollars to begin the process of reconciliation and healing is urgent and essential.
With love and respect,
Founding Members of the Abrahamic Reunion:
Elias Jabbour, Founder of the House of Hope, Shefar’amer
Sheikh Hussein Abu Rukun, Elder and spokesperson of the Druze (Mowahhidoon) faith, Isafiya
Rabbi Menachem Froman, Tekoa
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, Sheikh of Uzbeki Naqshbandi Sufis, Jerusalem
Reverend Abouna Abu Hatoum, Minister of the Greek Melekite Church, Nazareth
Rabbi Yosef Hadane, Chief Rabbi of the Ethiopian Jews of Israel, Tel Aviv
Imam Khalil Albaz, Imam and spokesperson for the Beduin, Tel Sheva
Ibrahim El-Hawa, Peace Ambassador, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem
Elana Rozenman, United Religions Initiative (URI) Global Council Trustee, Jerusalem
Eliyahu McLean, Director of Jerusalem Peacemakers, Jerusalem
Ibtisam Mahamid, Coordinator of Arab-Jewish co-existence activities, Faradis
Deacon Jiries Mansour, Deacon of the Greek Catholic Church in Rama, Galilee
Shahabuddin David Less, Worldwide Director, Universal Worship, USA
Kothreneda Anna Less, President, Rising Tide International, USA
Ferishta Andrea Blanch, Director, Centers on Conflict and Women and Violence, USA
Interfaith Worship Service for Peace : Unity in Diversity
San Diego, CA
Because of your (the Shalom Center's) interfaith work we here in San Diego have been inspired to do like interfaith work, as well. Last Sunday some 375 people from the congregations of eleven different denominations came together in a marvelous Interfaith Worship Service for Peace. We, actually, had a modified tent up on the stage under which the clergy, representing Baha'is, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Moslems, Roman Catholics, and Sikhs, who were delivering prayers, sat together.
Just prior to each of them coming up to say their prayer, or lead us in a meditation, or a chant, a youth from their denomination rose, came up on stage to the microphone, said a few words and then lit a candle in honor of that faith and for all of the children of the world. It was one of the Sufi elements in our ceremony suggested by Rev. Sharon Mijares.
The worship service centered on Unity in Diversity, but it centrally featured the children, and there were a large number of them from all of the faiths represented. They came up front at the beginning, were introduced as a group and sang, many of them went to an adjoining room and made "prayer flags for peace" during the service. They returned toward the end bearing brightly colored flags and sang with us once more as Rev. Art Cribbs, UCC, delivered the Benediction. Afterward we broke the fast together and networked with each other for the next 1 1/2 hours.
A number of spiritual groups endorsed our service.
The Muslims have put out an invite to last Sunday's participants to join them in breaking the fast at the Islamic Center of San Diego at 6:15 PM on October 15, 2006.
Recently, we have had an interfaith service on 8/30/06 at the Christian Fellowship Congregational Church, UCC, in S.E. San Diego. We had an interfaith service on 9/11/06 in Balboa Park in downtown San Diego. On 10/08/06 we had a service at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Uptown San Diego, and now we will have a further interfaith service at the Islamic Center in Northern San Diego City. I am not sure how long we can keep this going.
Yours for unity in diversity, John P. Falchi, Focalizer
Holy Convergence II: An Interfaith Festival for Families
Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006, 2-5 PM, Danville, CA
What is a Holy Convergence?
October marks an amazing convergence of diverse spiritual celebrations: Ramadan (Islam), the Feast of St. Francis (Christian), The High Holy Days & The Festival of Booths (Jewish), the anniversary of Gandhi's birth (Hindu), Indigenous People's Day and World Communion Sunday (Protestant Christian).
In celebration, the public is invited to enjoy interfaith panel teachings, food, kids' crafts, and music -- from drumming to gongs and Gospel. You can also walk the Labyrinth.
Music: Symphonic Gongs, Drumming with the Sons and Daughters of Orpheus, Gospel Choir, Bhajan Chants and Sufi Dances of Universal Peace.
"There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions." -Hans Kung
Participants: Danville Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Beth Chaim Congregation, First Church of Christ Scientist, Peace Lutheran Church, St Joan of Arc Catholic Church, St Timothy's Episcopal Church, San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church, San Ramon Valley Islamic Center of San Ramon, The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, Contra Costa Interfaith Housing Project, Jewish Community Relations Council, Second Baptist Church of Martinez, Rossmoor Interfaith Council of Walnut Creek, The M.A. Center (Mata Amritanandamayi) Center, The Baha'i Assemblies of Contra Costa County, San Damiano Retreat Center, Rigpa Center (Tibetan Buddhists) of Alamo, Korean Church of the Valley (Baptist), Buddha Gate Monastery of Lafayette, The Hidaya Foundation, The Sunnyvale Zen Center.
Musicians, Dancers and Artists: Sufi Universal Dances of Peace - Muiz Brinkerhoff, Aidan McIntyre - Symphonic Gongist, Gospel Choir from the Second Baptist Church of Martinez, Bhajan Chant from the MA Center of San Ramon, Sons & Daughters of Orpheus: Bruce Silverman (drumming), A Tibetan Tangkha, Classical South Indian Dance: Prasanna Ananth
October & November, Danville, CA
Inter-religious Dialogue: A reading and conversation on "The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, and Muslims."
Facilitated by Fr. Paul Ojibway, with support by Rabbi Dan Goldblatt & Sister Marianne Farina, CSC, Professor of Theology specializing in Islam.
This 8-week reading and conversation course will use the text, "Tent of Abraham" as a beginning point for understanding the three traditions of the Book, sharing common historical and cultural roots. The course will attempt to raise and broaden our understanding and common ground with our sister world religions as a way of finding hope and peace together, with consideration of next steps for congregational dialogue together. This would be an excellent experience for inter-faith families to share, and senior high and young adults are particularly welcome to register.
The course will be offered on Wednesdays in October (4,11,18) and November (1,8,15,22, 29) at 7pm. The sessions will be 2 hours each, with a break for refreshments.
Forgiveness: Israeli-Palestinian Ramadan Interfaith Encounters
Thursday, October 5th 2006, El-Khader, Israel
On Thursday, October 5th, the first of two Ramadan interfaith encounters, jointly organized by the Interfaith Encounter Association and the Hope Flowers School, took place at the Hope Flowers School's campus in El-Khader.
We started a bit more than an hour before sunset with brief introduction that included an opening by Mr. Ibrahim Issa, Director of the Hope Flowers School, who welcomed participants to the school and gave a summary of the school's activities. Then Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Executive Director of the Interfaith Encounter Association, presented the activities its activities and thanked the school for hosting this study day and for the long and fruitful cooperation.
Moving to the program itself, Ibrahim explained the division of the 30 days of the month of Ramdan into three 10-day parts – the first focused on mercy, the second on forgiveness and the third on reward. This was the inspiration for this program of two study days (the second one will take place on Wednesday October 18th – see invitation below), each studying the theme of its days from the different religious perspectives. Then Yehuda asked participants to go to their small groups, introduce themselves and share stories of forgiveness – both when they forgave others and when they were forgiven by others.
Just before sunset we shifted to the dining room where we had a joint lovely and relaxed Iftar-dinner for the breaking of the fast, sitting together and informally chatting with each other. We were lucky to have a cook that not only prepared delicious food but was also well trained in the requirements for Kosher food so the vegetarian dishes were actually Kosher (and, of course, we also provided sealed supervised meals for the more strict).
M'ghar-Shibolot Interfaith Encounter
October 1 at 5:00 PM, Jerusalem, Israel
The encounter began with the participation of 20 women and under the facilitation of Ms. Rdia Asakle, the group's coordinator.
It was the first encounter after the summer vacation and the war and the group started to plan the themes for its activity in the coming year. During the encounter many ideas came up: bridging, conflict resolution, bringing closer the hearts between the communities, initiating neighborhoods' projects, and study-days in the holy places such as the Church, the Hilwa and the Mosque.
The group decided to meet once a month, a meeting of the forum, to establish neighborhood activity once a month, and form at least 8 home-circles until the end of the year. Ms. Muntaha Mazlbet suggested that we start our activity in the Mosque due to the importance of the Month of Ramadan in the Muslim community.
A Celebration of Humanity -- A Triumph of Community
In the spirit of community during the holy month of Ramadan, Los Angeles Inter-Faith leaders hosted "A Celebration of Humanity," an Interfaith Iftaar, to commemorate not just Ramadan, but also the Christian remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi, as well as the Festival of Sukkot celebrated in Jewish tradition. With over one hundred and forty people in attendance, delicious Persian food, and first-class entertainment, the evening was a true testament to the merits of acceptance and understanding of different faiths.
After a friendly welcome by the host, Omar Ibn Khattab's very own Director of Community Development and External Affairs, Dafer Dakhil, Reverend Gwynn Guibord facilitated a dinner dialogue, where each person discussed the significance of fasting in their respective faiths.
To begin the night's program, Dr. Maher Hathout, senior advisor of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, was invited to share his thoughts about the sacred duty of fasting. "Freedom is to be in command of your life and your desires. And when you are in command, you are free." Following that, performer Ani conveyed her Ramadan blessings and greetings to the guests in the form of song.
Moving into the Jewish tradition, Malka Fenyvesi of The Progressive Jewish Alliance explained the significance of the word Sukkot, which is a metaphorical tent that a community builds together. "A Sukkot is called a 'Sukkot Shalom,' a tent of peace." Rabbi Jacobs of the Progressive Faith Foundation elaborated by emphasizing the triumph of the inter-faith community, saying, "We widen the tent, we drive the stakes in deeper...if we trust one another, we widen the tent." These moving words were followed by an equally moving, "Song of Peace," performed by singer Skylar Thompson.
The last of the speakers was Father Alexei Smith, of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who enlightened the crowd with the story of St. Francis of Assisi, whose good deeds influenced "how people respond to God and how they see the world." St. Francis," he explained, "sought not so much to be understood as to understand," and these words, according to Father Alexei, if applied today, can promote peace in a negative world.
The event concluded on a most perfect note, literally, with yet another wonderful voice, that of Pazzi Bohnekamp, of St. Phillips Apostle Church, who led the congregation with the song "Let There be Peace on Earth."
This "Celebration of Humanity" opened the hearts and minds of many, and will hopefully continue its celebration all over the world. By: Shazia Kamal
Tufts Receives New Grant to Change Attitudes across Religious Communities
Tufts was among five East Coast campuses to receive a new grant from the Academic Affairs Office of the Department of Homeland Security to implement different models of inter-faith and intercultural dialogue on college campuses. Tufts Hillel executive director Rabbi Jeffrey Summit is one of two co-principal investigators on this inter-campus collaboration. The monies have been given to support the development, implementation, and refinement of programs that will reduce inter-group tensions among university students of different religions, primarily Christian/Jewish/Muslim. The project will focus on affecting the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of university students in an effort to help foster habits of inter-group acceptance and cooperation among future leaders and decision-makers.
The Tufts project, named Pathways, will feature two different dialogue groups, as well as occasional dinners, lecture series, and an annual retreat. One of the dialogue groups, Pathways to Faith: Religious Pluralism Dialogue, will explore the beliefs and traditions of the three faiths, as well as their different views on contemporary issues, such as gender roles, humankind's relation to the environment, and the connection between religion and the state. The second group, Pathways to Understanding: Middle East Discussion and Analysis, will engage in in-depth conversations on the complex dynamics of the region, and examining topics such as resolutions of the current conflicts and portrayal of the peoples of the region in the Western media. Both groups will meet on a weekly basis during the semester and, pending approval from the Experimental College, will provide students with academic credit.
One of the goals of the program is to instill leadership skills among program participants so that they will make a wider impact on their campus through various projects, including a collaborative art project for the new Interfaith Center set to replace the existing Catholic and Islamic Centers.
The vision for Pathways was set by a consortium of university administrators, faculty and student leaders, including the four university chaplains, faculty in the departments of International Relations, Psychology, Comparative Religions, the Institute for Global Leadership, and the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, and students from the Muslim Student Association, Arab Student Association, Hillel, the Catholic Community, the Tufts Protestant Fellowship, and NIMEP. The project will be facilitated by Christina Tobias-Nahi and Shai Fuxman, two local facilitators, both holding Masters in Education degrees, hired by the project to run and evaluate the first year of this program. Abrahams Vision, a consulting group based out of California, will also be involved with continued training and materials.
Pathways will begin its activities with several information sessions to present the program to all interested students (see the attached flyer). At the information sessions students will learn about different opportunities to get involved with the project, as well as how to apply for the two dialogue groups.
Building on Tufts University's history of successful campus collaboration to create a community of respect and mutual understanding, the program hopes that increased learning about others will foster awareness of and respect for religious and cultural diversity among the broader campus community.
For more information contact the Pathways facilitators: Christina Tobias-Nahi Christina.firstname.lastname@example.org and Shai Fuxman Shai.email@example.com
October 10, Providence, RI
A Ramadan-Sukkot gathering in Providence took place in the sukkah at the Brown University Hillel. The Hillel rabbi, Serena Eisenberg, spoke, along with a member of the RI Council for Muslim Advancement, Dr. Amjad Kinjawi. We also welcomed as guests the three Jerusalem women (1 Jewish, 1 Christian, and 1 Muslim) who were in town as part of their national tour with Partners for Peace. The event was attended by both students and community members.
United in Hunger and Holy Days
October 17, 2006, Miami, FL
Students engage in dialogue at a Ramadan break-fast hosted by Miami University Hillel.
When Jordan Herskovitz, a University of Tulsa sophomore, sat down with a plate of food at a recent interfaith campus event, he couldn't help but notice a fellow student sitting nearby.
“When he sat down, he crossed himself and said a prayer,” said Herskowitz, president of Tulsa Hillel. “I thought, here I am, a Jewish student breaking the Ramadan fast during Sukkot on the floor of a mosque with a Christian student sitting next to me. It was very inspiring.”
Herskowitz, along with 50 Jewish, Christian and Muslim students, toured the campus mosque, ate dinner (with male and female attendees dining separately) and walked en masse to the Tulsa Hillel succah for dessert. With Shabbat descending, the Jewish students said the traditional prayers over candles, wine and challah before serving the dessert, featuring blintzes and mandel bread.
As the holy months of Ramadan and Tishrei converged this year, campuses across the country paid homage to shared holidays, an occurrence that happens every thirty years for a period of just three years. For college students, it also brought an opportunity for serious interfaith dialogue, creative event naming and some serious noshing.
“A few of us looked at the calendar and realized that Yom Kippur and Ramadan would be falling on the same day,” said Sarah Persitz, a senior at the University of Washington. “We thought: we'll all be fasting, so why not break the fast together?”
After a series of e-mails, the Jewish students invited their fellow Muslim students to break their respective fasts at the UW Hillel.
Nearly 90 students filled the building with typical college student chatter. During the dinner, the students from the Muslim Student Association formally invited the Jewish students to participate in their “Fast-a-Thon,” a yearly event that raises money for a local charity.
“It was a reciprocal gesture of friendship,” said University of Washington junior and MSA public relations officer, Zakariya Dehlawi.
Yet with the ferocity of the war this summer in the Middle East, the shared adherence to a lunar calendar, seemed particularly significant for many.
Perhaps significant, said Rabbi Jason Klein, director of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Hillel, is the stark contrast to the last lunar convergence. The Yom Kippur War, as it is called by Jews, and also known as the Ramadan War in the Muslim community, fell during this time in 1973.
“After this summer's war in Lebanon, many students on our campus were concerned with dialogue,” said New York University sophomore, Jordan Dunn.
Bestowing the creative name “Ramashanah” on their event, more than 40 Muslim and Jewish NYU students shared traditional Rosh Hashanah foods like apples and honey, and dates, a traditional food for Ramadan Iftar, or break-fast.
At the event, the students realized they had many things in common, including a shared issue of concern.
“The Jewish shomer negiah [restricting physical contact with the opposite sex] students were concerned about the campus gym not offering gender-specific lap time at the pool,” said Dunn. “As it turns out, it's a concern of the Muslim students too. We discussed ways to create a shared petition.”
While members of the Hillel of Montreal shared delicacies with members of the Muslim Student Association at their event, dubbed the equally creative “Succamadan,” Erin Grunstein, member-at-large of the Hillel of Montreal, said she “learned a lot about the different aspects of Ramadan and how similar [Islam] is to Judaism.”
Learning about each others faith was the motivation behind the interfaith Ramadan break-fast hosted by the Miami University Hillel.
“Our campus was ripe for this kind of event,” said Miami University Hillel director, Amy Greenbaum.
Set for 100 attendees, the tables were decorated with bright orange information cards. Students could use the cards to start dialogue with guests sitting next to them. The cards included such interesting facts as “Ramadan Mubarak” as the correct way to wish someone a “Happy Ramadan.” Capitalizing on one-on-one relationships was crucial to the success of the program said Greenbaum.
But for some campuses the interfaith spirit of friendship was not new.
The Jewish Student Association and the Muslim Student Association of Johns Hopkins University have held joint Iftars for years said campus officials. However, this year the students wanted it to be more than just a meal.
“It's an opportunity to host another community,” said Johns Hopkins sophomore, Sam Chester.
And at Harvard University, a joint Yom Kippur and Ramadan break-fast was held last year as well. The result was the creation of “Jews and Muslims,” a group of freshman who met every week for meals in a campus dining hall.
“At Loyola University [the interfaith relationship] is not a new relationship; it's actually normative,” says Patti Ray, Hillel director for Loyola University in Chicago. “It's the environment we live in here.”
The “Building the Peace, Breaking the Fast” program at Loyola was a collective campus-wide fast-for-peace with a break-fast featuring kosher, halal and vegetarian food. It was sponsored by Hillel, the Muslim Student Association and the Hindu Student Association and co-sponsored by the Loyola Anti-War Network, Loyola Students Against Sweatshops and the Turkish Intercultural Club.
“The program did not create the interfaith relationship, the relationship has been there,” said Ray. “The convergence of Hillel doing its thing, in the face of what is happening in the world, is the best of what Hillel can be.”
Call for Moslem Prayer and Iftar Break-fast
Sunday, October 15, 6:16 PM, Islamic Center of San Diego, CA
In the occasion of the Holy month of Ramadan I would like to invite you all to share with us the iftar (the sunset breakfast) on Sunday October 15, at the Islamic Center of San Diego. It is preferable to at the Islamic Center by 6:15pm. The food will be served after the sunset prayer (6:30pm) God willing.
INTERFAITH ACTION, INC. SEEKS TO FOSTER PLURALISM
On October 9th a remarkable thing happened in Sharon, Massachusetts. Three hundred and fifty people gathered in a large Conservative suburban synagogue. There was an educational program for the guests. Food was eaten inside a sukkah, the temporary booth that Jews construct to commemorate the fall agricultural holiday of Sukkot. Prayer was conducted by the sukkah, and everyone gathered for a delicious home-cooked meal in the synagogue.
While this sounds routine for a synagogue, the evening was anything but routine. The guests were Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Hindu. The meal eaten in the sukkah was an Iftar, including traditional foods Muslims eat to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. The prayer was Magrib, the Muslim sunset prayer and the feast, which met kosher and hallal dietary requirements, included spicy Pakistani curry.
The evening was completely planned and implemented by high school students in Interfaith Action’s Youth Leadership Program. Beginning in July, they developed action plans and created the menu, designed the invitation, and invited the community and the press. Students cooked all day and served the food in the evening. During dinner, they encouraged guests to talk about the spiritual significance of the holidays.
Faraz Mahmood, a Sharon high school senior was one of the keynote speakers. He spoke of undeniable core issues that divide different religious groups, but noted that in our small and beautiful town of Sharon, we certainly can address our misunderstandings. Sharing Sacred Seasons gave 350 people the opportunity to do just that: to break down some misconceptions, to learn about each other, to ask questions and to share perspectives.
On October 9th, a remarkable thing happened in Sharon, Massachusetts. People sat down at the dinner table together and made peace. Perhaps if gatherings such as these received press equal to the stories about hatred and stereotypes, we could teach our politicians how they too, can make the peace we all long for.
Interfaith Action, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation based in Sharon, Massachusetts, was founded in 1999 to promote personal reflection and connection among people from ethnically and religiously diverse communities and to promote joint action to serve the community. The Youth Leadership Program brings over 50 Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu teens together to further these goals. An informational website is currently being launched at www.ifaction.org.