With felicitous timing, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Judaism’s Reform movement, has published “Shalom/Salaam: A Resource for Jewish-Muslim Dialogue.”
At a moment when hopes have rarely been higher for peace in the Holy Land, the organization is making the paperback book available to Reform rabbis in Southern California and elsewhere in the United States to share with Islamic leaders in their communities. The book may also be purchased by mail.
Alluding to the fragile framework for peace signed by Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Rabbi Harvey J. Fields of Wilshire Boulevard Temple said, “Here is a manual that comes out at precisely the time when American Jews and Muslims are looking seriously at dialogue as a parallel to the peace process in the Middle East.”
Although the volume was ready long before Monday’s historic handshake between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders, distribution has just begun. The movement hopes that recent developments will increase demand for the 120-page book, which contains articles by Jewish and Islamic experts and a step-by-step guide for Muslim and Jewish groups that want to foster understanding and friendship through dialogue.
Fields, who chairs the Interfaith Coalition to Heal Los Angeles and whose synagogue has conducted programs with the Islamic Center of Southern California, said, “I see the book as a wonderful instrument for furthering dialogue that we have already begun in Los Angeles.”
Although Arab-Jewish dialogue has taken place in Southern California over the past several years, most of it has not emphasized religion.
One exception is a group formed a year ago by Rabbi Howard Laibson of Temple Israel in Long Beach and Soheil Naimi, an active member of the Islamic Center of Southern California.
Gathering every two months at the synagogue and the Islamic Center, a handful of Jews and Muslims have been introduced to each other’s religious beliefs, customs and rituals and, in the process, have begun to overcome fear and stereotypes. The Muslims have attended a Passover Seder, the Jews, a breaking of the Ramadan fast. Soheil and some of the others were guests at Laibson’s Rosh Hashana services this week.
What makes their group significant, Laibson said, is that “we are not academics, political activists or community leaders talking to each other, just plain folks.”
He believes the manual could be an impetus for widespread grass-roots dialogue. Naimi, who has not yet received a copy, said, “For people who don’t know how to get started, it could help.”
Laibson said the program will be expanded, “in part based on the manual. The model that we developed is very similar to that in ‘Shalom/Salaam.’ ”
Before publication, “Shalom/Salaam” was reviewed by a number of U.S. Islamic leaders, according to its editors, Rabbis Gary Bretton-Granatoor and Andrea L. Weiss of the Reform Movement’s interreligious affairs department. The book may be ordered by sending a check or money order for $10, plus $2.50 for postage and shipping, to: UAHC Press, 838 5th Ave., New York, N.Y. 10021. For information, phone (212) 249-0100.
* “The Hopes and Fears of Palestinians and Israelis,” a free symposium at the University of San Diego Sept. 28-29, will include panel discussions, poetry readings, a small festival of Palestinian and Israeli films, an art exhibit and a community forum. The event is open to the public. For a complete program and information, phone (619) 260-4600.
* Ancient Christianity and the current re-emergence of Christianity in Eastern Europe will be examined at the Marymount Institute for Faith, Culture and the Arts conference, “Crisis of Culture and the Birth of Faith,” Sept. 25-26, at Loyola Marymount University. Among the speakers will be Jaroslav Pelikan, Sterling professor of history at Yale University. For a complete schedule and registration information, phone (310) 338-4570.
* The first Catholics in Media Awards luncheon will be held Sept. 26 at the Beverly Hilton hotel after a 10 a.m. Mass celebrated by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony. Actor Pierce Brosnan will be master of ceremonies for the event, which will honor “motion pictures and television productions of artistry and integrity, which affirm life and recognize the sacredness of the human person.” An individual achievement award will salute a person whose lifetime contributions have affirmed “highest ethical standards of the Judeo-Christian tradition.” Tickets are $45. (818) 759-1611.
* Project Koinonia is organizing interracial, inter-ethnic and interdenominational dialogue groups “to enhance trust and understanding among the people of God.” Sponsored by the South Coast Ecumenical Council, the evening sessions include clergy, lay persons and youths over 16. There is no cost. Groups will meet from 7:30 to 9:15 p.m. Tuesdays, Sept. 28 through Nov. 2, at a church in Long Beach. Advance registration is required. (310) 595-0268.
* Thomas Moore, a psychotherapist and composer and author of “Care of the Soul,” will speak at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at First Christian Church, 609 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica, and at a 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. seminar Sept. 26 at Earth Trust House in Malibu. Admission is $12 Saturday, $95 Sunday. Proceeds benefit Earthways.
* The Second Southern California Pan-Orthodox Youth Dance will be presented by the St. Innocent Church’s youth group from 7 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday. Admission--$12 at the door, $10 in advance--includes dinner and door prizes. 5657 Lindley Ave., Tarzana. (818) 881-1123.
* The Society of Humanistic Judaism will hold its Yom Kippur observance beginning at 2 p.m. next Saturday near the southwest corner of Roxbury Park in Beverly Hills. Participants are asked to bring a chair or blanket to sit on and a short reading to share. A dinner will follow at a nearby restaurant for those wishing to break the fast together. (213) 891-4303.
* The Congregational Church of the Chimes in Sherman Oaks will hold its 43rd annual Golden West Fair Sept. 24-25, featuring games, gifts, crafts, food and novelties. This year’s fair features an auction of antiques, furniture and collectibles. Magnolia Boulevard at Hazeltine Avenue. (818) 953-3541.
* The Center for Spiritual Development in Orange will celebrate its eighth anniversary Sunday. Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m., followed by a fund-raising brunch at which the Spirituality in Action Award will be given to Dona and Theresa Sherrin, founders of the Precious Life Shelter in Los Alamitos. Tickets are $20. For information and reservations, phone (714) 744-3175.
* Temple Baptist Church celebrates its 90th anniversary with a Homecoming Worship Celebration at 3 p.m. Sunday. Anyone who has been connected with the church is invited. The Rev. Lester Harnish, pastor from 1951 to 1959, will speak. A reception follows. 2120 Estrella Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 745-5339.