by: Raanan Mallek, PTIJ coordinator
On Monday, June 12th, 2017, four leading experts in interreligious dialogue gathered at the American Jewish Committee to discuss what religions can learn from each other. These distinguished scholars from different traditions shared how their experience of learning from each other, with all the complexities therein, has enriched their spiritual lives and deepened their faith. The speakers included: Didi Sudesh, the European Director of the Brahma Kumaris; Rabbi Dr. David Rosen, the international director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee; Fr. Dr. David Neuhaus, Patriarchal Vicar for Hebrew speaking Catholics in Jerusalem; and Sheikh Awad, representing the Ahmadiyya community. The evening was moderated by Peta Jones Pellach, education director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute.
Fr. David Neuhaus spoke about how his first friend in Jerusalem was a Muslim and that he had the blessing to go with him and Rabbi David Rosen to visit Pope John Paul II in 1985. Fr. Neuhaus spoke of the touching connection he has seen develop among Jews driven by their faith observance of commandments to stand in prophetic solidarity with asylum seekers in Israel.
Rabbi David Rosen spoke about how he had a theological epiphany which forced him to confront the question of what the existence of other religions means for Judaism. He went from a place believing that everyone else is in varying degrees of darkness to a place of being able to see the light in the other. If we preach the omnipresent and omniscient nature of the Eternal Creator of All and He can relate to us in diverse ways, is it not logical that we can relate to Him in different ways? Logically, other religions are expressions of the Eternal encountering individual human beings created in the Divine Image. Amidst the challenges of our modern time, there has never before been more interreligious dialogue as there is today.
Didi Sudesh spoke about how in education, you teach yourself how to move from a place of fear in asking questions to a place of being in awe that the question can be asked. There is a spiritual meeting space where we can all experience a relationship with the Supreme Soul. This relationship will allow us to forgive ourselves and others.