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Category: Jewish-Muslim Engagement

Bringing Jews to Church

Gateway to Religious Communities

 

 

 

Leslie Hilgeman (RRC, 2013) is spending her one year Multifaith Internship at the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia.

Here are some of her reflections:

Here’s a moment I never expected to encounter when I entered rabbinical school – inviting Jews to come to church!

This year as a rabbinic intern at the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, I am coordinating a program called Gateway to Religious Communities.

Bryn Mawr Presbyterian ChurchEach Fall and Spring members of the public sign up to visit a series of congregations over a few months’ time. Most recently we visited the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, in Bryn Mawr.

At each congregation we visit, we attend a worship service. We meet with a leader before hand who explains the service, and then afterwards there’s a Q & A where we talk about what we saw and experienced. And we talk about faith.

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Religious Hatred is American Treason: Peter King Hearings and a Lesson from 1921

John Webster SpargoIn the weeks leading up to the House hearings on "the radicalization of American Muslims," anti-Muslim rhetoric continued apace in some segments of the media. At an Islamic Society of North American dinner in Arlington, Virginia last month, over 200 Muslims shared their concerns as panelists discussed the challenges facing the Muslim community. Professor Ingrid Mattson, the immediate past president of the organization, began the program by reminding the audience, "We are not alone -- our interfaith family has our back."

This is not the first time Americans of faith have stood behind a religious group singled out for suspicion. In 1921, at a time of widespread, virulent defamation of Jews, John Spargo, a lay Methodist minister, social critic and activist, said "It should not be left to men and women of the Jewish faith to fight this evil ... Anti-Semitism commands our special attention today ... but my plea is not for pro-Semitism." Rather, he opposed efforts to "divide our citizenship on religious lines." He did so out of "loyalty to American ideals." In a lecture later that year, Spargo called religious hatred "American treason." In his eyes, the "Jews' problem" was actually an American problem.

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Uprisings in the Arab World: Seeking Understanding

TunisiaOur Multifaith Department at RRC maintains close touch with young, thoughtful Muslims. These Muslim leaders of tomorrow attend RRC's Muslim-Jewish summer retreats, work with our students in our service learning course on Islam and come to RRC to lecture or to participate in our salon. Afterwards, we stay in touch, through Facebook, emails, blogs and more. When complicated world events challenge us--as they have in the last few weeks--we especially appreciate these  connections.

With the uprising in Egypt now riveting everyone's attention, I turned to my computer to see what some of these smart young Muslims were thinking and writing. For example, Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian born journalist living in New York, was a guest lecturer in our Islam class last year and will be returning this spring to teach again. Mona is an award-winning syndicated columnist. Before she moved to the U.S. in 2000, she lived in Saudi Arabia for nine years and was a Reuter’s correspondent from Cairo and later from Jerusalem where she was the first Egyptian journalist to live and to work for a western news agency in Israel.

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Israelis and Palestinians: Two Versions of a Shared Past

Learning Each Other's Historical NarrativeReaders of this blog know I believe that stories are central to our understanding of ourselves and the world. That explains why I majored in Religion rather than Philosophy in college. In my experience, the "big questions" often come down to what story or stories we think we are telling with our lives.

The tricky part is being willing to hear the stories of others, even when they are very different from our own. Religious pluralists are people who believe that the different stories of our traditions can exist amiably side-by-side; we need not make matters of faith into a zero-sum game. Brad Hirshfield, one of those pluralists, entitled his recent book, You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to be Right.

When the stories we tell involve historical events this becomes trickier still. Even more difficult is when the competing narratives about those events have implications for life and death matters in our world today. This is part of the reason the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains so fraught and intractable.

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