Warm collaboration

August 30, 2019 by Lisa Napthtali
Read on for article

Together with the Jewish Christian Muslim Association (JCMA) and Together for Humanity (TFH), Melbourne’s TheArk Centre collaborated in a genuinely warm and wonderful event at our Centre.

Rabbi Zalman Kastel, Rev Ian Smith, Rufiath Yousuff, Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann

Around 50 people came to hear from three speakers and then participate in small group discussions. After a warm welcome from Rabbi Gabi, we heard from Reverend Ian Smith, followed by Rufiath Yousuff and finally Rabbi Zalman Kastel. Each spoke about their personal story; their journeys within their own faith.

Their stories were layered, moving and deeply interesting. What struck me, and what I’ll share with you today, is the extent to which choice played such a part in each person’s story.

Oftentimes it can be easy for people who aren’t observant to look at those who are and think (and indeed I’ve heard it said many times) that the religious person is blinkered, they don’t know any different or, even the more extreme perspective, that they’ve been brainwashed.

Listening to each of the three speakers I heard three very different experiences and three very different choices that were made in regards to observance of the three respective faiths.

Ian spoke about being a young surfer who had dropped away from the church and religion. He shared how he had discovered his spirituality through surfing, through connection to nature that led him back to the church where he has been a pastor now for 36 years.

Rufiath spoke about how her family moved from India to Brisbane when she was six years old. They were conscious of fitting in and so her parents didn’t enforce religious observance and even ensured she and her brother had a Christmas present to show off at school so they didn’t feel different to their friends. She came to a more observant way of life as an adult; she said she didn’t pray five times a day, fast over Ramadan or wear a headscarf until she was at Uni.

Zalman spoke about the evolution of his faith and the choices he has made over the years of his life being an observant Jew. He referenced his evolution in terms of hats: the yarmulke he wore as a youth, the black hat he was given when he became Bar Mitzvah, the larger, white yarmulke he chose to wear when first going into a Muslim environment and the basic black kippah he chooses to wear day-to-day now. He talked about his choices in how he presents himself as reflective of what he has learned and gained via his interactions and collaborations with the Muslim community over the last several years.

After a tea break, the group divided into five smaller groups to discuss their own stories. Testament to the nature of those involved the discussions it didn’t feel like there was enough time in those small groups. I don’t know that any amount of time would have felt enough.

Some very big questions were posed including how an event like that one can be parlayed into the wider world where so much hate and fear is prevalent and growing. As one person said, it takes action at all levels to stem the tide. We do need better education at all levels, we need our leaders to stand up and actually lead, and we need grassroots activities.

The impact that breaking down barriers and building connections between individuals has cannot be underestimated, and I know I’m far from the first person to say it.

On Sunday I stood as a proudly Jewish woman with men and women just as proud of their faiths. We shared stories, we shared space and we clearly have a great deal in common. Much more than one might think at first.

As we head into Shabbat this week, I am more conscious of the choices that others around me are making.  Part of my awareness, I admit, comes from the planning stages of the event when we needed to take into account three different religious prayer schedules and requirements when selecting a date and time. I am acutely aware of the differences that exist among Jews ourselves, let alone between Jews and people from other faiths. And I have more hope and optimism than I did last week about our future. The world is terrifying and there are dangerous people looking to do bad things. That hasn’t changed. What has is that I know how many people there are who, like me, are just trying to live their best life, making choices that suit me and my family. And that doesn’t include one iota of wishing ill will or harm on anyone else. Just the opposite in fact.

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published


    Rules on posting comments