Leadership for a World of Religious Diversity

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RRC's Muslim-Jewish Retreat for Emerging Leaders

Emerging Jewish Muslim Leaders Retreat
2011 Retreat “Alumni Facilitators” Professor Homayra Ziad and Rabbinical Student Diana Miller, pictured at 2009 Retreat.

This week - from June 13th-16th, at the Trinity Retreat Center in Connecticut, 24 Jews and Muslims will gather for four days to learn together, establish relationships, and imagine the future they hope to build together. This will be the second retreat in a series that RRC has planned part of a larger goal of creating a network of emerging Muslim and Jewish leaders. Four alumni from the first retreat are returning to help facilitate this event, along with RRC Multifaith Studies faculty members and guest scholars.

As in the past, the group will focus on the Joseph/Yusuf saga, a narrative found in both Torah and Qur’an and on the fascinating history of interpretation in both Muslim and Jewish traditions. From learning texts together, we will move into sharing in other modalities, including storytelling, the arts and creative ritual. We plan to also share our challenges leading our communities toward greater understanding and cooperation. We will explore the "promising practices" we have each found in our work, and bring our collective wisdom together as we move into the future. 

The group we have gathered will inevitably lead to exciting exchanges. The Jewish leaders-in-formation represent Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal seminaries. They include a physician, a yoga teacher, and a community organizer, a professor of education, a composer of Jewish musical theater, and a psychotherapist who authored a major study of Jewish views of the afterlife. The Muslim participants are equally diverse, including Muslims of Arab, South Asian and African American descent. They currently pursue a wide variety of occupations:  university chaplain, social worker, Islamic faith leader at a federal prison, human rights attorney, social media consultant, and graduate student in neuroscience. (The last is also a poet.) One of these young leaders memorized the entire Qur'an by the age of 15 and attended Zaytuna Institute (now Zaytuna College), the pilot Muslim institution to train American imams. Others have studied at Hartford Seminary in their Islamic Chaplaincy Program, Harvard Divinity School, Inns of Court School of Law in London, Columbia University, Oxford, Yale and Marmara University in Turkey. This winter PBS chose one of the participants to be the featured Muslim in its documentary The Calling:  A New Look at an Old Job. 

Later this month, we will report on what happens when we bring this dynamic group of individuals together to engage with their traditions and each other.

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