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New Perspectives - Holy Land Narratives and Politics

George Wielechowski (RRC, 2015) spent his one year Multifaith Internship helping to plan and staff a 10 day interfaith clergy trip to Israel, organized by the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies.

Here are some of his reflections:

Israeli scholars and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian AuthorityOur interfaith group of more than 20 highly-accomplished and experienced rabbis, bishops, monsignors, priests, reverend doctors and the like had been studying “holy land narratives” together in an academic setting for more than four months as part of the Maryland Clergy Initiative. Yet it took only a few days together 24-7 to start talking in a new way: one in which we felt safe to question our own assumptions. Once this happened, none of us came away unchanged.

During our trip we spent time with a spectrum of leaders: Rabbi Michael Melchior, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Sharon government ; Haim Peri of Yemen Orde, two retired Israeli Army colonels, one of whom was the lead designer of and our personal guide around the Security Fence; several Knesset members; Arab priests and ministers deeply involved in social justice work; Israeli scholars and (in a private meeting, picture above left) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority.

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Rabbinical Training Helps in Planning Immigrant Rights Demonstration

On November 2, 2010, The Philadelphia Inquirer carried the following article:

Pro-immigrant protest hits Philadelphia City Hall

Pro-immigrant Protest - Day of the DeadCarrying cardboard coffins and wearing "Day of the Dead" masks, pro-immigrant groups led by the New Sanctuary Movement marched on Philadelphia City Hall and the District Attorney's Office on Monday, seeking to end the contracts that govern cooperation between local police and the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

 

Michael Ramberg (RRC, 2012) who is serving this year as a Multifatih Intern with the New Sanctuary Movement and Congregation Mishkan Shalom helped plan the event.

Here is Michael's reflection on the demonstration: 

In rabbinical school, we are constantly working to create rituals that communicate profound content clearly yet elegantly. A recent demonstration at City Hall on behalf of Immigrants' Rights provided an opportunity to put my rabbinical training to work. When I joined the interfaith committee planning this event, the group had already decided to hold a protest to coincide with the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday at the start of November. The major elements of the protest would be delivering a petition to the District Attorney and marching around City Hall, stopping for cultural performances by immigrant groups.

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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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Getting the Christmas Spirit

Rabbi Deborah Glanzberg-KraininOur rabbinical college, RRC, launched a new website this week, MostJewish.com. In addition to a light hearted game exploring Jewish identity, the website also includes a blog with room for more probing explorations. The editor of the blog, Rabbi Deborah Glanzberg-Krainin, launched the conversation with a post on being a Jew at Christmas. A wonderful dialogue has already begun.

One of the rabbinical students, Amy Loewenthal, responded with her reflections on Christmas in light of her recent experience of interfaith learning with Christians as part of her rabbinical training. Here are some of her thoughts (slightly edited.) The whole discussion of Christmas can be read here.

Our Jewish-Christian Hevruta class (RRC and Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia) had a transformative discussion of Christmas.

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Willow Wilson speaks at RRC Multifaith Salon

On Friday, October 8, we welcomed author Willow Wilson to our Mutlifaith Salon. Wilson read from her new book, The Butterfly Mosque, a spiritual memoir that chronicles her conversion to Islam and her subsequent marriage to a young Egyptian from a traditional Muslim family. 

Our salon participants included students and professors from colleges such as LaSalle and St. Joseph’s; seminarians and faculty from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Lutheran Theological Seminary; local clergy and laypeople from a variety of faith traditions.

All participants enjoyed her insights and observations as well as her openness, honesty and approachability.

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