My Jewish journey has sparked an interest in learning more about other faiths. In fact, the deeper I have delved into my own religion the more interest I have in learning about others whose spiritual journeys are different from my own. I am surprised to discover that the more different I think we are, the more we are the same!
For several years, I co-taught Jewish-Christian dialogue groups with different Christian clergy. Members of their churches studied with members of my synagogue and our discussions were very meaningful. However, they lacked a critical element: that of depth of relationship. There wasn’t an opportunity to talk and get to know our Christian friends one-on-one, something I personally yearned to do and which my fellow Jews in the group yearned for as well.
Our Jewish-Christian dialogue group sparked a desire to learn more about my Muslim “cousins”. Through Walter Ruby and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, I made the acquaintance of Ali Chaudry and the wonderful members of his community, the Islamic Center of Basking Ridge. I began to learn about Islam and began the process of introducing the members of my community to the Muslim community at Ali’s mosque. Ali and I have co-taught a variety of different topics , including tzedakah and zakat, avodah and salat, and also about the tradition of fasting in our different faiths. Together, under the auspices of FFEU, we formed and together co-chair SUFO, Standing Up for the Other Solidarity Committee here in NJ.
With this as a backdrop, I have met and enjoyed getting to know many others from the Muslim community. I see that we share many similar values and traditions.
When I learned about the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, I could not wait to start a local chapter. I found many interested women in my community who also wanted to be part of SOSS. We had a wonderful first meeting of our Muslim and Jewish sisters in August and are scheduled to meet monthly. I suspect that over time as we share our lives and our stories and our love for our respective faiths, we will come to develop an intimacy and individual relationships with one another. As we talk together, eat together, work on projects and share our personal stories, we will come to learn that we are sisters of a common soul who are together creating a community of salaam and shalom.
By Rabbi Deb Smith