Friendship and Faith

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Just starting out in my profession, I enjoyed the astonishment of seeing my name pop up in published bylines and having journalists contact me wanting to know more about a synagogue event. Seeing these kinds of results made me feel that I was being helpful to Beth Shalom as a professional—that a non-Jew could not only do this job, but do it well.

The positive energy of the synagogue was undeniable. Everyone I encountered among staff and members greeted me with a smiling face. I felt so included in this community of friends that, over time, this felt like more than a job, more than a professional role I was playing. I realized that I was living out one of the principles I had learned in my Wayne State course work—I was becoming such a part of the organization I was serving that I was now among friends. At Beth Shalom, I was one of their own. Aside from giving me professional experience, my time with Beth Shalom also gave me a new perception of Jewish people.

In a world dominated by Christianity, most people will not be lucky enough to learn about Judaism as I have. Working at the synagogue for four months has taught me that one key to breaking down stereotypes is forming personal relationships. Email us at ReadTheSpirit gmail. Remember … W e also offer e-editions of Friendship and Faith. Enjoy the Amazon Kindle version of our book packed with inspiring stories.

Got a story to share? F riendship and Faith focuses on building compassionate cross-cultural friendships and project co-founder Gail Katz is a long-time professional in this special field of education. Gail wrote this about a recent Face to Faith program with high school students …. F rom the time I was a child, I have been aware of being different. I spent my early childhood and elementary years in a non-Jewish neighborhood, and I was one of the only Jews in my Maryland public school classrooms through the sixth grade. I also ran a program for 7th graders in Oakland County called the Religious Diversity Journeys, a project sponsored by the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, where middle school students had the chance to visit local houses of worship and study different faith traditions.

So it was only natural for me to respond with great enthusiasm when the Michigan Region BBYO an organization for Jewish teens contacted me in to help set up an interfaith initiative for high school teens. Although I do a lot of my work with bringing adults together, my real passion is to get our youth to focus on unity, peace, community building, and mutual understanding as their mission.

When we get diverse youth together to talk and break bread together, they find out what they have in common, and our community becomes a better place to live. Face to Faith is a wonderful interfaith high school teen program that gives youth an opportunity to discover how their religion has shaped their high school years, to discuss the misunderstandings and stereotypes they have personally experienced or witnessed about their faith, and to create opportunities for teens to cross boundaries and interact with students of other faiths.

In my mind there is nothing more important than helping our children, our teens, and our young adults to build a future of justice, equality, respect and peace—a calling that I hope we all share. Care to share your own story?


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Click here for our story guidelines. The teens then divided up into two groups. It quickly became evident that many of the verses were quite similar across the three faith traditions. Teens had to build a structure that only selected members of their team were allowed to see. It was clear that team cooperation and accurate verbal instructions were what was needed to win this game. At the end of the evening the teens shared what they had learned about each other and the value of Face to Faith in breaking down barriers and stereotypes.

Some of the teens who have been very active in this initiative will be going off to college next fall, and will not be part of the program next year. Some responses included learning how to deal with misconceptions and conflict, and perhaps participating as an interfaith group in doing community service.

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We look forward to some of our Muslim, Christian, and Jewish teens re-joining us next school year, and to attracting teens of other faith traditions and cultures such as Chaldean, Sikh, Hindu, Unitarian, Buddhist, and others who have not yet been part of Face to Faith. As readers, we welcome you to contribute your own stories of cross-cultural friendship. You can help in many ways! Bookmark this page—or subscribe via the link in upper right.

Share these stories with friends. See links below. C hildren are the heart of the World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation—all of those third through seventh graders who express so much creativity and joy each year. We call them the Children of Peace as they gather to create their banners on white cotton. Then, we staple their banners onto basswood poles, so they can wave them proudly as they march in the processional that opens our celebration. Eventually, all of those colorful, hopeful banners are sewn into our Children of Peace Quilt. The mission of the World Sabbath is to teach our diverse population that the work of building a community of justice, equality, respect and peace is a calling that we all share—all of us, no matter what our faith tradition might be.

But most important to me is the fact that our children, teens, and young adults not only participate—they lead us! Most of our Friendship and Faith readers live far beyond our home state of Michigan, but you might have heard about the World Sabbath. The Sabbath grew out of concerns raised by wars around the world that raged in the s and continue to rage today.

In the beginning, the Rev. Rod Reinhart, an Episcopal priest and nationally known peace activist, decided to underscore the message that God is a God of peace. In spite all of the differences and disagreements among religious groups, the central message of all faiths is love and compassion for humanity. So, Rod created and proclaimed the World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation—an interfaith holy day of peace and reconciliation among all religions, races, ethnic groups and nations. Soon, the Rev. These two pioneers carried the idea far and wide.

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Care to read more about Rod Reinhart? He recently wrote about the need for peace activists to work with returning military veterans and their families. January 29, , is the 13th Annual World Sabath. In , when Rod moved to Illinois, I took over as chair of the event in Michigan.

Friendship and Faith

Because of my background as an elementary and middle-school teacher and diversity-club sponsor, I felt we needed to move the focus of the World Sabbath from clergy offering diverse appeals for peace—to young people, our future leaders. Now, we kick off the World Sabbath on the last Sunday afternoon of January with a Jewish young person blowing the shofar, a young Muslim chanting a call to prayer, followed by middle-school, high-school and college-age youth adding more prayers for peace from various religious traditions.

If the heart of the World Sabbath is youth, the soul is music. Choirs, bands, dance groups and various other forms of spiritual expression reflect many languages, cultures and traditions.

We have been enchanted by Hindu dancers, Yiddish Klezmer music, Jain songs, Sikh Shabads, Christian dance ensembles, and Arabic elementary-school drummers. The World Sabbath has grown! In , we held the 12th World Sabbath at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, the first time that this event will be held in a Jewish house of worship.

On January 29, , the 23th Annual World Sabbath will be held at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, a historic church in the city long associated with both with civil rights and interfaith peace activism.

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What a wonderful lesson for our youth—and from our youth! If you live in Michigan: Please join us in Detroit for this beautiful coming together of our diverse community to champion World Peace and the building of respect and understanding! For our many readers around the world: This story is our way of offering one more idea from the FriendshipAndFaith project for building diverse friendships in whatever community you call home.

Writer Teri Bazzi-Oliveri has a simple yet profound suggestion: Resolve to open your arms. I never thought that I would say this, but I like Jews. Yes, a Lebanese-American-born Muslim loves Jews. Are you surprised? The world tells us that Arabs and Jews should not be loving one another—that we should be killing and shooting and destroying not only each other, but also our homes, our lands and our religions.

I know that some in my own community would not approve of friendships that I am forming these days. I know that even my father might have some harsh words for me for opening my home and sharing a meal—like iftar, the joyous breaking-the-fast dinner after sunset in Ramadan.