Interfaith relations in the United States have experienced a summer of trial and tribulation. In the context of Jewish relations with Christians and Muslims, these stresses have been relentless and difficult.
Well before the war in Gaza, our relationship with the Presbyterian Church suffered a major blow as the result of the Church’s decision to divest from a number of major companies that did business in Israel. This tension was (and still is) extremely painful, as Jews and Presbyterians have a long history of working hand in hand in the United States and abroad. In response to the divestment decision, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued a statement on behalf of the Reform Jewish community which contained the following commitment:
“We will continue to work with local Presbyterian congregations, many of which we know do not support this [boycott] and with which our congregations have forged important alliances to further the values that we jointly hold as core to our desire for a better world for all peoples.”
In essence, Rabbi Jacobs is saying that despite our differences and despite these newly formed tensions generated by the boycott, the Reform Jewish community is committed to nurturing a relationship that promotes goodness and cooperation in the world. This is the mindset that we must embrace and cultivate with all faith communities.
In the wake of the war in Gaza, religious and political tensions have placed strains between Jews and Muslims as well as others. Yet, throughout the summer our congregation refused to allow these tensions to deter us from working together. We hosted an Iftar (Muslim break-the-fast) and engaged with a number of mosques throughout the crisis. We hosted 50 teens from a regional peace camp for a Friday night dinner and Sabbath Service, and we redoubled our efforts to embrace our differences despite the tension and inner pain.
In the spirit of building bridges of understanding, HCRJ will be hosting a one of a kind interfaith program on Thursday, September 11. Join us for an evening of entertainment and dialogue as we seek to strengthen our connections with a wide variety of faiths through an award winning one-woman show called The God Box (see page 6 for details). Members of the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Bahia communities have been invited to join us for this event as we use this humorous and dramatic program to stimulate conversations about God, faith and tolerance.
These summer tensions, uncomfortable as they may be, have served to remind us that we cannot allow global madness to sabotage our relationships with local faith communities. Taking our lead from Rabbi Jacobs, we must recognize the value and importance of working together despite our differences.