Last night was a board meeting for JAM & All, an interfaith organization I've been working with for a few years. JAM stands for Jews and Muslims. It's a post-9/11 group, started by an American Jew who was born in Israel (David Kamrat) and a Muslim leader (Maulana Shafayat Mohamed). Our plans for the coming year include various service projects, concentrating on individual impact rather than wide-spread publicity or big events.
After September 11, 2001, my husband and I, along with millions of other Americans, obviously, felt the need to "do something," and this interfaith dialog seemed like a natural direction for us. We started by going to visit the Islamic Center that is located a few blocks from our church. We went to prayers there several times and became acquainted with some people. Then we attended services at Temple Shalom, which is a few blocks in the other direction. We found out, for example, that the rabbi at Temple Shalom has a daughter in Israel and the imam at the Islamic Center has family in Jenin. The conflict in the Middle East is closer to my neighborhood than I had previously realized.
We arranged an interfaith gathering at our church which included two rabbis, two imams and two ministers, with a mixed attendance of about ninety people. That gathering was amazing, educational and uplifting. Everyone who attended was enthusiastic. The only negative feedback we got was from one person who thought it should have gone longer. But afterwards, we found that there was quite a bit of institutional resistance to any kind of continuing program. That is understandable because all these institutions run on volunteer energy and they are always strained to accomplish their own agendas, serve their own congregations, without having outside programs added in. So I joined JAM and All, which is not affiliated with any religious institutions. It's an independent non-profit and I have made more friends there. In the end, the main result of our efforts is that we have made friends with people from different cultures, different religions and nationalities.
"...you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good." Genesis 50:20