Multi-Faith Education for September 11

Below is a letter from rabbis, including CBB Board and Religious Advisory Board members, encouraging colleagues to support religious freedom and greater inter-religious understanding, especially on September 11, which is “Shabbat Shuvah” [the Sabbath of Return or reconciliation]. This serves as a positive follow-up to yesterday’s post about “Sharia” as a “dirty word,” and seems applicable in principal to Christians and other religious leaders.

Dear (Rabbinical) Colleagues,

As interfaith educators who work with rabbinical students from all denominations, we are deeply dismayed by some of the ignorance and confusion we have heard expressed in the national conversation surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” We are especially concerned when we hear such ignorance and confusion coming from within the Jewish community.

Whatever happens with the proposed community center in lower Manhattan, the
controversy has highlighted a question that, in the post 9/11 world, comes
enmeshed in strong emotion: Is the American ideal of religious liberty—an
ideal fundamental to the health of our democracy—expansive enough to include
Muslim Americans?

We urge rabbis across the country to speak out against the bigotry that has
been unleashed by this controversy, and to assert leadership on the issue of
religious pluralism. As Jews, we know all too well the destructive power of
hate speech. We should be in the forefront of efforts to ensure that
religious minorities can practice their traditions freely.

We encourage our students and colleagues in the rabbinate—Orthodox,
Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, and independent—to
consider using this September 11th, also *Shabbat Shuva*, as a time to
reflect with our communities on our own fears and prejudices, on the need to
educate ourselves about Islam, and on the role Jews might play in helping to
create a more inclusive and just society.

We look forward to hearing your responses.

L’shana Tova,

Rabbi Justus Baird
Director, Center for Multifaith Education,
Auburn Theological Seminary

Rabbi Reuven Firestone
Professor of Medieval Jewish and Islamic Studies,HUC-JIR/Los Angeles
Senior Fellow, Ctr for Religion and Civic Culture, Univ. of Southern California

Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer
Director, Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives and
Assoc. Professor of Religious Studies, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Rabbi Or Rose
Associate Dean, Rabbinical School of Hebrew College
Co-Director, Center for Interreligious Leadership Education

Raquel Ukeles, PhD
Golda Meir Fellow, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Academic Director, World Leadership Program
Jewish Scholar, Luce Retreat for Emerging Muslim and Jewish Religious Leaders

Rabbi Burton Visotzky
Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies and
Director, Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies,
Jewish Theological Seminary of America

Rabbi Justus N. Baird
Director, Center for Multifaith Education
Auburn Theological Seminary, NY
O: 212-662-4315 M: 609-605-2201


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