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Updates from the Sisterhood
When the world feels heavy, the Sisterhood is a beacon of hope. Nothing illustrates that more clearly than the work our members are doing, individually and collectively, to shine light on their own small piece of the world.
This month, in Sacramento, Regional Coordinators Anne Kjemtrup and Melanie Mages Canale led a dozen members in a #BuildforUnity event with Habitat for Humanity.
In New Jersey, our teens organized an amazing project with Family Promise of Essex to donate hot meals and groceries to five families experiencing homelessness. Co-leaders Chava and Sena led the chapter in the months-long coordination of this project and were so successful in their efforts to raise money for groceries that they were able to give an additional donation of $700 to support families in need.
For months, a little-known project with big impact has been quietly taking place in Tucson, Arizona. Thanks to the tireless efforts of ICAS (Immigration Communities Action Group) co-chairs Beth Turetsky and Rashida Gadiwalla, a generous grant from Islamic Relief USA, and dedicated sisters on the ground, the Sisterhood has been providing hot meals to immigrants traveling through the Casa Alitas Welcome Center.
The Sisterhood first connected with Casa Alitas during the Border Building Bridges trip in January 2020. Last summer, they connected with Mohamed Osman, a Somali refugee who established Nur Market and Catering in Tucson. This partnership allowed the Sisterhood, with Nur’s assistance, to provide “Intake Soup” and hot meals for guests at Casa Alitas while they finalized their travel and sponsor arrangements. In total, over 5,800 individual soups and over 5,000 hot meals were provided to arriving immigrants and refugees. Mohamed’s mother used family recipes to create delicious, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate meals each week. We are thrilled with the partnership that has been established between Nur Markets and Casa Alitas, honored by the opportunity to serve arriving families, and incredibly grateful to Beth, Rashida, and all the volunteers at Casa Alitas and on the ground who made this project a success.
We wish to share introspections and perspectives from a diverse cross-section of our members. We are implementing an occasional blog series to allow our sisters to reflect on their interfaith and peace building experiences in their own words.
Reflections of a Peace Builder
By: Israel-Palestine Committee Member Rabbi Amy Eilberg
From the time I received my call to serve the cause of peace in connection with Israel and Palestine, I knew that I needed to enter into deep relationship with Palestinians. Raised in the American Jewish community, I knew no Palestinians and knew nothing about how they saw the world. If I was to even try to do any good in peace work, that would have to change.
I began to make intentional trips to Palestine, along with my regular trips to Israel, to build relationships with Palestinians and to learn their stories. My first of such trips, a listening tour led by The Compassionate Listening Project, brought a group of Americans and internationals to listen deeply to Israelis of many stripes and to a range of Palestinians. I knew the Israeli Jewish stories in my bones (even the ones with which I disagreed). The Palestinians’ stories were new to me.
I remember one group of Palestinians who hosted us at a large conference table in their town. Practically from the moment they began to speak, I felt my heart race and blood pressure spike. They said terrible things about Israel, and it was intensely painful to listen to them. My commitment during the trip was to stay at the table, to work internally with any reactions I had, so I knew that I would not shout at them or get up and leave the room, but I had a strong instinct to do so.
Gradually, as I listened through my strong emotions, I began to hear laments that were uncannily familiar. Again and again, I heard Palestinians say things like the following about their own situation:
1. There is no one for us to talk to on the other side. If only we had a partner for peace.
(At first, an angry voice in my head shouted, “What?! Israel has been seeking peace and the Arabs have been rejecting it since 1947!”)
2.Why do they teach their children to hate?
(How could they possibly think this of us? I thought, instinctively outraged. Slowly, I began to understand that, truth be told, there is hate on our side as well.)
3.We never know when one of our loved ones may be suddenly taken from us.
(This one broke through the familiar narratives in my mind and heart. I knew that this was true of “us,” of Israeli Jews, and clearly, this was true of Palestinians as well.)
4.Why can’t they understand that we are not going anywhere? They cannot wipe us out.
(This one made me ponder how ready we, both Israeli and American Jews, are to give up our deep wish that the Palestinians would just somehow go away.)
Grasping this commonality of human experiences was transformative for me. Though of course there is a profound power imbalance between Israelis and Palestinians, with Israelis holding enormous advantages in military prowess and diplomatic support, I began to recognize that the Palestinians lived with hopes, fears and pain parallel to our own. On the structural level, the two “sides” are very different. But all are human beings.
It is sad and a bit shocking that at that time I had to work so hard to discover my shared humanity with Palestinians. But once I did, it changed everything. I would never see the conflict the same way again. I could never again vilify huge swaths of the Palestinian community, as so many in my community do, and I would always think of Palestinians as including the deeply thoughtful, loving people I had taken into my heart.
These are the changes that form the foundation of all peacebuilding work.
Cultivating Understanding, Promoting Just Peace Speaker Series
Following the success of January’s five-week Virtual Trip to Israel and Palestine, the Sisterhood remains committed to creating opportunities for members to explore a wide spectrum of views on Palestine and Israel. We endeavor to hold space to hear one another and to work with organizations dedicated to nonviolent means of achieving justice and peace.
To that end, we have created the Cultivating Understanding, Promoting Just Peace Speaker Series. This winter and spring, we invite you to participate in one, some, or all of the forthcoming events, which we believe will inspire you and give you tools to further your commitment to working toward peace.
Have you ever wanted to join a Sisterhood chapter but haven’t had the time or opportunity? Now might be your chance!
This time two years ago, very few of us could imagine relying on video technology to celebrate milestone life events or connecting deeply with fellow sisters via Zoom. As the world has changed, the Sisterhood has adapted, and we’re looking to explore a new initiative- virtual chapters!
We envision virtual chapters bringing together women from across the country to meet regularly for interfaith learning, exchange, and friendship. If you’re interested in committing to regular meetings with a small group of Muslim and Jewish women in a virtual space, email Samantha at [email protected] to learn more!
Help Us Launch Our New Website!
We are excited to be engaged in a website redesign process, and we need your help! Are you a Sisterhood member who has a story to tell? Did your region recently engage in a community service project or did your chapter have a great meeting? Maybe you made a connection with a new member and took a selfie to mark the occasion. Please send us Sisterhood photos, event blurbs, and updates for possible inclusion on our new website! Help us help website visitors understand everything that makes the Sisterhood great- YOU! Please send photos, blurbs, and other news to Samantha- [email protected].
Stranger/Sister Screening Opportunities
The social impact campaign forStranger/Sister is in full swing! If you’ve been wanting to bring this powerful catalyst for dialogue and change to your community, now’s your chance! Odyssey Impact/Transform Films are leading a campaign designed to educate, engage, and activate local communities to unite against hate and create peaceful dialogue across lines of difference.
Stranger/Sister is available for screenings hosted by individuals, community organizations, corporations, houses of worship, schools, universities, and more. The Odyssey Impact team can offer guidance from beginning to end and will provide a digital Screening Toolkit, which includes a Facilitator’s Guide, Community Discussion Guide, Classroom Guide, marketing materials, and a social media press kit, all designed to make the screening experience as impactful as possible.
Join the 150+ women who’ve met another sister through our Virtual Coffee Connection! Ready to give it a try? Click this link, fill out the brief form, and we’ll match you to a fellow sister. The two of you can then arrange your own virtual coffee/tea date! Please note, pairings are made in order of request and are not solely Muslim-Jewish matches. Thank you!
Partner Organization Opportunities
The Center for Inclusion and Belonging Presents:
Bridging Communities Projects
The Center for Inclusion and Belonging wants to know about YOUR community and bridge building work! Between now and March 15, you’re invited to submit your best ideas and activities already in progress that bring people together to work toward the common good while also building relationships that help bridge differences.
Are you or is someone you know involved in a local, regional, or national-level project that strengthens civil life and infrastructure while fostering civic friendship and belonging?
By submitting your ideas for projects already underway, you can help the Center conduct an informal mapping of community bridge-building work and possibly receive additional funding and technical assistance to scale your work! The deadline for submissions is March 15th.
An honorarium will be paid to the 10 highest ranked ideas. If you are part of a non-profit organization and your idea fits the criteria, you may be invited to apply for a $75,000 fellowship opportunity run by the Center for Inclusion and Belonging. Learn more and submit today.
What does a baby goat have to do with the Sisterhood? Read our next Biweekly Briefing to find out!
Your donation supports the critical mission of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom to build bridges and destroy the barriers of hate.