This was a special day for me in interfaith activity. I was very honored today to introduce two religious leaders I deeply admire, Rav Hanan Schlesinger and Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat, for their courageous leadership on interfaith issues, for their deep scholarship and their humble hearts. May the spirit of humble exchange and open hearted dialogue spread from this meeting and so many other important ones like it, to bring us closer to peace and harmony. Tomorrow I must do more, but for today: דיינו. Dayyenu. May my contribution be sufficient, for today.
In a general sense, it was a networking meeting to promote understanding among Jewish and Muslim religious leaders.
More specifically, Rabbi Schlesinger recently founded Roots/داور/שורשים , bringing together Jewish Israeli and Palestinian (mostly Muslim) residents of the West Bank for truly unprecedented, deeply needed dialogue, to hear one another’s stories, to start to understand and appreciate the religious narratives of ‘the other side’, to make more room in their lives for peaceful coexistence, to advocate for a solution to the conflict and not to advocate for one side. He’s looking to meet more Muslim leaders, both in the West Bank and also here in America. I’ve known Hanan for about five years through Rabbis Without Borders, and seen him embark on this unprecedented and courageous journey.
Imam Bashar is a friend, colleague and teacher of mine ever since I met him approx. 9 years ago through my roles at Oseh Shalom. He’s currently teaching an excellent Islamic studies class for me and Father Bill Au. Imam Bashar travels widely and frequently, fostering interfaith dialogue and understanding, especially throughout the Islamic world. He brings tremendous warmth, scholarship and humility to his many interactions. He knows religious leaders, and especially Islamic religious leaders, all over the world.
I’m grateful they both agreed to meet today at very short notice – it can only bear positive fruit.