Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

FYI from JCRC: The power of interfaith relations


Hello, readers! We hope you all enjoyed time for reflection during the many October holidays and are greeting November with a sense of renewal and reinvigoration. Your JCRC certainly is!

We are gearing up for a big fall seminar, Nostra Aetate: Turning Points for Interfaith Dialogue, on Monday, Nov. 14. In partnership with the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, the Diocese of Orlando, the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center, and the Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College, we will explore Nostra Aetate, the Vatican’s 1965 Declaration on Relations with Non-Christian Faiths. Nostra Aetate was particularly seminal in improving relations among Catholics and Jews. We will learn about this important document, its impact and how similar turning points for interfaith dialogue can provide a path forward for understanding, acceptance and partnership.

The seminar will feature a presentation by Dr. Ruth Langer, professor of Jewish Studies and associate director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, as well as facilitated table discussions among attendees and leaders representing multiple faith traditions. The evening, which includes dinner, will run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the NorthView Building on the University of Central Florida Campus.

When we invited our partners from other faiths to serve as table leaders, it was heartening to see just how many were interested—and how willing they are to work, learn and grow with us. As we pursue our aim to be a valuable, trusted resource and ally in the Central Florida faith community, we are treating our partners from other faiths how we ourselves would like to be treated. We believe that all of us—organizations, institutions and individuals—can benefit from learning about one another’s faiths from one another.

It is nearly impossible to fully understand the values, traditions and motives of any faith without hearing directly from its adherents. Let’s say that a school board member reads a pamphlet on the High Holy Days to “understand” Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; the board member may learn about the traditions and history, but without hearing direct testimony from students or teachers (as at a recent Seminole County School Board meeting), the board member cannot know how it feels to have to miss a particular practice, make up a test or lose time on a project. The personal story adds a layer that truly connects and may change the board member’s sensitivity on calendar and scheduling issues.

Within our community, this personal approach has been used to great effect with our younger community members. We laud the Jewish Academy of Orlando for its multi-faith program with students from the Islamic Society and the Geneva School, and the various synagogue religious schools, for arranging similar programming. Likewise, we, as adults, strive to learn directly from our colleagues in the faith community by asking questions in one-on-one settings or by attending education sessions such as the Islamic Society’s bi-monthly Open House, the Holocaust Center’s “Faith, Peace and Justice” summer series or the Interfaith Council’s monthly Interfaith Discussion. Once we understand what drives one another, we are better equipped to move forward to work in partnership on issues of common concern.

Though we may not agree with all faiths on all issues or causes, we believe in the power of interfaith relations. They are the genesis for how, in the words of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, “people of good will, regardless of where they stand on the faith spectrum, can begin to move from fighting one another to tackling the common enemies of humanity that plague us all.”

If you would like to attend Turning Points for Interfaith Dialogue on Nov. 14, you may register online at http://www.jfgo.org/TurningPoints, or by calling (407) 645-5933, ext. 233. The event, which includes dinner, is $36 per person ($20 for students).

We will see you here in this space again next month! As always, if you have any questions about this column or about JCRC in general, please contact Marli Porth at mporth@jfgo.org.


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