Dr. Gereboff's Head Notes
Repairing the World by Living Pluralism
Nearly a year ago, I joined a group of clergy, educators and lay people on the Peninsula that has been structured to build engagement among Muslims and Jews. The conversations have been important and inspiring.
They remind me of the inspiring conclaves I attended as a teenager, and of the collaborative, deeply thoughtful Jewish Day School conference I attended two weeks ago with other Wornick educators and board members. With more than a thousand people in attendance, the conference brought together a diverse swatch of the Jewish Community in North America and Israel. In each instance, I was most moved by the passions that brought people together and by the ability of people who held divergent views to hold important conversations that led to greater understanding.
One of the most startling outcomes of the Jewish Muslim Partnership occurred a month ago. At the end of the day upon which we received the threatening phone call that lead to the school’s evacuation, my email box began to fill up with over a dozen messages from the Muslim community on the Peninsula. Among them were:
I write to you to express my solidarity and prayers for what the school staff, admin and students went through yesterday. I would like to extend my hand in friendship and let you know that my community and I are there for you.
We are sorry to hear that some cowards have chosen to create a climate of fear and divisiveness. Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. We pray for the safety of your staff, students and families. People across the Muslim community in the bay area are praying for you.
I thank God that the threat was not materialized, at the same time recognizing the agony and fear that it instilled in the hearts of staff, parents and children alike. No one deserves to feel scared about going to school.
As American Muslims with children attending an Islamic School in South Bay, that has been threatened this past year, we can understand the fear and apprehension you must be feeling. We offer our support during this confusing time. Please know that we stand with and respect our brothers and sisters of the Jewish community.
These are all examples of living pluralism, a commitment to engage diversity.
They manifest Diane Eck’s definition of pluralism (The Pluralism Project, Harvard, 1991) “energetic engagement with diversity… the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference...the encounter of commitments…holding our deepest differences in relationship to one another.”
Most critical in Eck’s view, is dialogue because “the language of pluralism is that of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism. Dialogue means both speaking and listening,…”
Creating ways for these sorts of encounters to proliferate is one way to restore civility in a divided nation.
The next chapter in these exchanges occurred last week, when I received a note from a principal in a Muslim school in San Jose. She and her students have created cards and a banner expressing support to our school.
Our art teacher Ginger Slonaker is working with our students to create a similar expression of support. Next week, some parents, staff and children from that school will be at our school so that we can exchange our banners and notes of support.
This is the beginning of an intentional “reaching out” to engage people who live different worldviews. Just as I was inspired as a youngster, and continue to be today, by encounters among diverse groups of people, our students will be able to draw upon these experiences to heal a broken world.
You too can participate in this exercise if you are interested. The Jewish Muslim Partnership is holding a solidarity gathering on Sunday, February 26 from 3-5 p.m. at Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame. It will be an afternoon of solidarity between Muslims and Jews, and an opportunity to engage in conversation with people from different places, all of whom are committed to the restorative idea of living pluralism.
Choose groups to clone to: