RRC has always been a pioneer in educating Jewish leaders for a multifaith world. Thanks to three consecutive three-year grants from the Henry Luce Foundation (totaling nearly one million dollars), the College created a unique initiative to train rabbis who can foster understanding among people of all faiths. Programs place a special emphasis on Jewish-Muslim engagement. Offerings include student internships in the community, interfaith text study with Jewish and Christian seminarians and Muslim graduate students; scholarly guest lecturers; and an evening salon with faith-based social activists. The department also hosts groundbreaking summer retreats for emerging Jewish and Muslim leaders.
Students acquire information and skills crucial for Jewish leaders in pluralistic communities, in order to (a) educate Jews intelligently about other faiths; (b) represent Judaism and the Jewish community to others; and (c) engage in interfaith dialogue, and build partnerships with other faith communities for social change.
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, '82, Ph.D., created and heads the program; Rabbi Melissa Heller, '08 and Rabbi Michael Ramberg, '12 provide additional faculty support. Interns in multifaith studies receive supervision from Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, '85, director of RRC's Social Justice Organizing Program.
In the video below, Dr. Barry D. Mann teaches RRC rabbinical students how to use their Hebrew knowledge to learn the Arabic language. Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, director of multifaith studies at RRC, hosts the class.
What's going on in Multifaith Studies at RRC?
(last updated December 2014)
Hevrutah course—This fall we offered our popular course, “Hevrutah: Jewish-Christian Encounter through Text.” As in past years, the course was co-taught by Rabbi Melissa Heller (RRC, 2008) and a professor of Hebrew Bible from a Christian seminary, in this case, Professor Robert Robinson, Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia (LTSP).
Rabbi as Pursuer of Peace (Rodef Shalom)—This January term, we will be pioneering a new course that our guest instructors are creating for us. This will be a new collaboration for Rabbis Daniel Roth and Amy Eilberg. Rabbi Roth is a Talmud professor and directs the Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution in Israel. Rabbi Eilberg is a trained pastoral counselor and spiritual advisor.
Muslims in America—This spring, Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, will be coordinating “Muslims in America,” a course that has been evolving over almost a decade. Once again, we will partner with the Middle East Center of the University of Pennsylvania who will provide Muslim graduate students to be paired with our students for study, visiting of mosques and teaching about Islam in Jewish venues. A new feature this year will be the involvement of Professor Homayra Ziad of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies (ICJS) in Baltimore. Also helping to coordinate this course will be our Multifaith Teaching Fellow, Rabbi Michael Ramberg (RRC, 2012).
Crime and Punishment in the USA Today—This spring, we will again bring Chaplain Phyllis Taylor to teach her course on the many facets of our criminal justice system from the point of view of victims of crime, the incarcerated, prison staff, returning citizens and more. In a new development, we will offer this course in the evenings at a local synagogue, Mishkan Shalom, and open it to adult learners as well as to our students. A post script from last year’s class: one of the students who attended that course , Sarah Barasch-Hagans, is now working on prison issues as an intern at T’ruah : the Rabbinic Campaign for Human Rights (paid for by the Luce Foundation grant).
The New Curriculum—Before this academic year concludes, Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer will be finalizing with Dean Elsie Stern the requirements for the new curriculum for Multifaith Studies going forward.
- This year, we pioneered a new program, “Shadow a Pastor,” in which we have identified three local Protestant ministers to whom we have paid a small stipend to be available for a specific shadowing opportunity (3 hours) to any of our students who wish to make that part of their 40 hour shadowing requirement.
Praying with Your Legs—Our Multifaith salon has had an unusually active fall. In September, we partnered with LTSP to present a viewing of “Muslim Voices in Philadelphia,” a series of short documentaries created by community members themselves. I moderated a panel of representatives from the mosques whose films were shown. In October, we had our largest salon in our 8 years of programs, Ali Abu Awwad, a Palestinian peace activist, attracted over 100 attendees. This January, we are offering a Sunday afternoon multifaith workshop for the community to experience the Rodef Shalom program and in April we will welcome Professor Philip Clayton from Claremont Theological School.
Philadelphia Emerging Religious Leaders (PERL)—In year three of our local student interfaith group, we have again paid seminarians as interns to co-ordinate the project. This year, David Basior (RRC, 2015) and Marsha Baxter (an LTSP seminarian) are co-leading the effort. Their program this year will include a three part Story Telling training for their group, led by a professional storyteller/actor, David Bradley, and paid for by a grant from Tribrain Foundation.
- Interseminary Faculty Consortium—RRC is taking the lead in creating for the first time in Philadelphia an interfaith group of seminary professors and deans. Our first meeting, held at RRC, involved 5 institutions—four of whom were represented by their deans. We now have a planning committee organizing a dinner meeting and program this winter for a larger group of faculty.
Shoulder to Shoulder—Seminarian Interfaith Seminar. On Labor Day weekend, two RRC students, Marisa James and David Basior, were among 10 Jewish and Christian seminarians who travelled to Detroit to take part in the Islamic Society of North America’s annual convention. Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer was part of a small group of board members of Shoulder who created this opportunity—an experiment that was so successful that next year the Shoulder to Shoulder board has agreed to double the size of the program.
- Sisterhood of Salaam/Shalom (SOSS)—Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer joined the board of this newly formed organization and helped to plan our inaugural conference that took place this November at Temple University. Over 100 women participated; we are already planning next year’s conference. I led a workshop with a Muslim colleague on Sarah and Hagar.
Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies —This January, Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer will serve on the faculty of ICJS’ week long course, “Jewish and Christian Encounters: Texts, Traditions & Practices.” Five RRC students will also attend. This is the second time I have participated in the planning and execution of this program with the Washington Theological Consortium and the staff of the ICJS.
Cultivating Character: A Conversation across Communities—After our successful first retreat of Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian scholars/leaders in June 2014, we are now growing our “community of discourse from ten to twenty in time for our next retreat, June, 2015, also at Cranaleith Spiritual Center in Philadelphia. Our discussions have been rich and generative, and we look forward to the next stage of our evolution. We are already looking toward June, 2016, when we plan a gathering of 80 individuals including clergy, chaplains, faith based activists and emerging religious leaders.
- Jewish-Muslim Emerging Leaders Retreat Program—After four successful retreats over six years, this year we worked with a professional consultant to evaluate the program, developed a Muslim organizational partner—the Islamic Society of North America—and are now discerning our future direction, with one additional retreat already funded (by Luce) for 2016.