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Faith Trio: Kehilla’s Role in Positive Interfaith Relations Highlighted at Symposium

by Lea Delson

I was thrilled to represent Kehilla, the Faith Trio and the interfaith art exhibitions at a wonderful symposium on interfaith relations (Jewish-Muslim in particular) in the Bay Area held at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center and cosponsored by Lehrhaus Judaica on November 5th.

One theme of the symposium was learning about the history of the “Golden Age of Spain” or “Convivencia,” a period of several hundred years in which Jews, Christians and Muslims coexisted under Muslim rule, and posing the question of what we can learn from this period of interfaith coexistence. Professor Fred

Astren, Middle East and Islamic Studies, Dept. of Jewish Studies, SFSU, gave an illustrated lecture on this history. Another significant theme of the symposium was how to tackle and discuss the challenging issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in our interfaith efforts, rather than avoiding these issues as we often do. Maha Elgenaidi, Director of Islamic Networks Group, gave a very passionate and compelling talk on this theme.

The Faith Trio was represented by myself, Rev. Ben Daniel of Montclair Presbyterian Church, and Ali Sheikholeslami of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern Calfornia, and all of us participated in a panel moderated by Professor Reuven Firestone of Hebrew Union College of Los Angeles. The three of us talked about the founding, history and some of the activities of the Faith Trio. The Faith Trio is an interfaith alliance of three congregations (Jewish, Muslim and Christian) including Kehilla.

We had a very receptive audience of about 150 people who appreciated hearing about some of our experiences. I talked about our interfaith art exhibitions and a few slides of artwork and artists were shown in the background as we were speaking.

Both Muslim and Jewish prayers were offered publicly and were explained as well, and were quite beautiful and moving, I thought.

The event concluded with another compelling panel about interfaith activism in Marin featuring some VERY impressive panelists, including Amal Crespo of the Islamic Center of North Marin and Tricia Hellman Gibbs, who is a physician, co-founder of the San Francisco Free Clinic, a novelist and movie maker, as well as an interfaith activist.

Joanne Greene of the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center and Peretz Wolf-Prussan of Lehrhaus did a marvelous job of planning, coordinating and hosting the event. Professor Reuven Firestone, Heidi Sanders of the Osher Marin JCC, Vernita Lyons of Lehrhaus and others also contributed greatly to the success of the event.

Dave Green and Rabbi Burt Jacobson of Kehilla attended, and I was very happy to see other friends from the East Bay, including Tobie Lurie who is the head of the interfaith activities at Congregation Netivot Shalom, Judy Gussman, who has organized many interfaith activities for Kehilla, and Bat Sheva Miller, assistant head of school at Oakland Hebrew Day School, from the Orthodox Jewish community of the East Bay. A video of the event was made, and edited segments may be available later.

I felt a very strong sense of yearning for positive interfaith relations (Muslim-Jewish in particular) throughout the event from the organizers, the presenters, and all those who attended. Thanks very much to all those in Kehilla who have supported the efforts of the Faith Trio for the past dozen years.

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