Religion: There are many peaks and all aim for the stars – Morgan Hill Times

We have just completed a most unique month for the interfaith community. In April, for the first time in over 30 years, we met Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Baha’is, Hindus, Buddhists and Indigenous Nations and even more groups celebrating their days saints. Across multiple denominations, we were reminded of our unified common purpose as a multi-faith community.

Rabbi Debbie Israel

The convergence of these holy days has been an opportunity to remember our common goals and beliefs, while noticing and appreciating our differences. As we enter May, we look forward to continuing to work together and forging new, expanded understandings.

A personal story: Throughout my childhood and most of my adulthood, most people I met shared my religious heritage. Admittedly, I knew people representing various denominations, mainly Christian denominations, but they were acquaintances, not friends. My father was the executive director of a Jewish organization, and so my whole family’s world was centered around the Jewish community. For most of my adult life I was a professional Jewish educator, so my circle remained closed.

There was no ill intent or bias, it was just the world I lived in. And yet, even in this island world, my beloved father always taught me: “There are many mountain peaks and all reach for the stars. I was taught to appreciate and be considerate of other religions.

In fact, it wasn’t until I became the rabbi serving the South County Jewish community that I was more intimately exposed to other religions. This is where I met and befriended Muslims, Christians and Buddhists. I found that just as my life experiences isolated me from people of other faiths, many people in this community had never met a Jew, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindi or Muslim before. .

For this reason, I quickly helped organize the Interfaith Clergy Alliance and the Interfaith Fellowship of South County, two groups that meet regularly to learn from each other, support each other, and pray together. And when the opportunity presented itself to become Executive Director of Interfaith Activities in South County, I felt that my heart had found my next purpose in life, my next opportunity to contribute to the greater good.

It has not always been easy for our interfaith groups to forge alliances. We had to learn to speak a common language and share agreed priorities. We had to overcome prejudices and expectations.

A challenge presented itself regularly. While some religious communities pray in churches, others may pray in temples, mosques or centers. We had to stop referring only to churches and learn to say “places of worship” in order to be inclusive. We had to remember that there are different religious calendars and when planning events we had to review everyone’s calendars, not just those we are familiar with.

The clergy group had many discussions about the content of prayer, wondering whether when we lead prayers at events we should pray in our own prayer traditions or do we try to use a more inclusive prayer . This conversation repeats itself almost every year, especially when new members of the clergy join the group. The South County Interfaith Community, our lay group, regularly opens our meetings with readings from an inclusive book that Pastor Patrick Davis discovered: The Interfaith Prayer Book, compiled by Ted Brownstein.

An example of such a prayer reads: May peace here triumph over discord, generous giving over greed, reverence over contempt, speaking with truthful words over lying words. May the Righteous Order win the victory (Avesta Yasna, 60:5, Zoroastrianism, the pre-Islamic faith of Persia).

These words surely translate into all of our deepest prayers, regardless of our faith.

Rabbi Debbie Israel is the executive director of interfaith activities in South County. She is also rabbi emeritus of Congregation Emeth, the South County Jewish community. To reach her for more information on interfaith activities, email [email protected].

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