In his translation of the Islamic Sufi poet, Rumi, Coleman Barks says, “Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make sense anymore.”
I am trying to find that place in my life in Spokane.
In Ethics of the Fathers 1:14, Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for me, who is for me; and if I am (only) for myself, what am I. And if not now, when?”
Now is the time to be for myself and to open my eyes to those around me. I say it like a mantra these days.
For over fifty years Jews and Muslims have lived side by side in Spokane, Washington. In the last couple of years both communities have invited their neighbors to events at the synagogue and Islamic center. Meet the Neighbors programming, Kosher Dinner, Friday Night Services and Prayers, Ramadan Dinner and Prayers. We are each learning and making space for the each other to see that we can't be only for ourselves.
Last year Jews and Muslims created a chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. Jews from the Reform Congregation Emanu-el, the Conservative Temple Beth Shalom and unaffiliated Jews joined with women from the all parts of the Muslim community. Each month we eat together and talk and get to know each other. Politics in the United States and in the Middle East are not something we discuss and yet for myself politics and the hate rhetoric in this country today are the reason I have joined a group meant to foster understanding and respect. What I see around me in the news has galvanized me, even compelled me to look outside myself and join communities that encourage peace and acceptance.
This May both communities are celebrating and learning about each others' approach to God. I recently got an email from the national founders of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, Sheryl Olitzky and Atiya Aftab.
"For Muslims, the month of Ramadan has begun—a time of fasting, prayer, charity, and contemplation. Our fasts during Ramadan are a means to strengthen our faith and work towards the betterment of our society. We wish our Muslim brothers and sisters, Ramadan Mubarak, to have a blessed Ramadan.
For Jews, we observe the holiday of Shavuot—an ancient harvest festival that also marked the revelation of Torah at Mt Sinai. It has been said that the entire Torah exists for one purpose, to establish justice. As we celebrate the giving of Torah, we recommit ourselves to the repair of the world. To our Jewish sisters and brothers, we send a greeting of Chag Sameach, to have a joyous festival."
The first synagogue in the state opened in Spokane in 1892, but the city's Jewish history began even before the little village of Spokane Falls existed. History Link put it this way: "In 1879, Indians told Simon Berg, the first known Jewish resident, that he was not the first "egg-eater" they had met. Apparently, other Jewish traders observing the kosher dietary rules had visited before. Berg built a store in tiny Spokane Falls in 1879 and by 1885 he had been joined by at least a dozen other Jewish merchants. The town's first Jewish services were held in a private home in 1885. In 1890, the Jewish community met to organize a Reform congregation, called Congregation Emanu-El. On September 14, 1892, they dedicated their synagogue, Temple Emanu-El, the first in the state by four days, since Seattle's Ohaveth Sholum opened within a week. Jewish merchants and financiers played a key role in the development of Spokane during its early decades. A second congregation, the Orthodox Keneseth Israel congregation was formed in 1901. Both congregations thrived until they merged in 1966 and built a new, modern temple, the Temple Beth Shalom. It remains the center of Spokane's Jewish community today. The city's Jewish population has remained steady through the decade, yet is estimated at less than 1 percent of the metropolitan area's population."
Spokane Islamic Center was founded in 1979 and serves over 1100 Muslims in the Greater Spokane area. Our community is very diverse and is composed of various ethnicity and backgrounds including, Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Croatia, England, Egypt, Gambia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Kashmir, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Senegal, Singapore, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen, and more.
Both the Jewish community and the Muslim community in Spokane have been the target of hate crimes in the last couple of years. But rather than dwelling in that victim place we are finding that sweet green grass where we can enjoy each other.
Originally Posted in Our Community of Humanity at Inner Child Magazine
Role of Interfaith Group in World Peace
Are you part of a religious or spiritual community? Do you feel connected and understood by your neighbors? Do you feel like we are all part of the community of humanity?
There are some religious communities that are trying to convert people from other religious communities to their way of seeing the world and interacting with the powers that be in the universe. But more and more today, interfaith communities are springing up, perhaps in response to hate speech or bigotry and sometimes in an effort to be proactive and create peace.
Communities that are trying to convert people to their religious beliefs and interfaith communities are very different and have a very different impact of world peace.
Spokane, Washington has a very active interfaith community. Each month or so, the Spokane Interfaith Council creates an event called Meet The Neighbors. This month we met at the Islamic Center of Spokane. The purpose is education, an opportunity to see the inside of another religion's sacred space, and talk with people—one person to another. At events such as Meet The Neighbors it is easy to see that we all have a lot in common, we want our children to be safe from harm, we want to learn and grow in the world, have a warm home, and meaningful work and lives. After listening to the Muslim call to pray, members of the Muslim community share what is most beautiful about their religion. "That moment in pray when I connect deeply with my creator," said one man.
Several people in the audience quietly nodded in agreement. Past Meet The Neighbors events have taken place in Sikh temples, Jewish synagogues, Bahia (Muslim) centers. Next month we will visit a Native American center.
In early February there will be another event in Spokane designed to encourage dialogue and learning. As part of the Being Religious Interreligiously Lecture Series and in honor of the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate (an encyclical from the Pope) at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, Dr. Amy Jill-Levine will be speaking on "Of Pearls and Prodigals: Hearing Jesus' Parables through Jewish Ears."
In an earlier interview with David Neff, Levine said, "In working with Christian congregations and clergy groups, I find an enormous interest in Jesus' Jewish context—how the parables would have sounded in Jewish ears and what the controversy stories suggest about early Jewish practice. I think that if Christians want to take the Incarnation seriously, they should also take seriously where and when and to whom it occurred. Hence the volume has 30 short essays on such topics as the Pharisees, the temple, the ancient synagogue, Jewish parables, Jewish miracle workers, Jewish beliefs in angels and the afterlife, Jewish family life, and so on. "The Jewish Annotated New Testament" also serves to correct unfortunate stereotypes of early Judaism that sometimes find their way into Christian preaching and teaching. It also addresses anti-Jewish teachings such as that all Jews are "Christ killers" or lovers of money or children of the Devil. The annotations provide historical contexts for the passages that give rise to such canards as well as note that the vast majority of Christians read their Bible as a text of love, not hate."
I also recently attended an Interfaith Havdalah presentation. Franciscan friar, Al Mascia and Steve Klaper, a cantor or Jewish musical leader ask Christians to come early to Catholic Vespers and Jews to stay after their Havdalah (Saturday night ending of the Jewish shabbat). "The Interfaith Havdalah is not a mixture of faith traditions; rather we are unique communities praying in each other's company," said long time friends and colleagues, Al and Steve.
As part of the Jewish Havdalah, Steve Klaper leads Mincha (afternoon prayers) and Maariv (evening prayers) with songs like Shalom (Peace) Aleichem (peace be upon you) and V'hi No'am which is taken from the 90th Psalm, noted Klaper, saying the Psalms are something both traditions have in common.
Making the transition from Jewish Havdalah to Catholic Vespers, the leaders ring a Tibetan bowl and encourage participants to take a deep cleansing breath. The candle in front of Friar Al is then lit and they sing "Upon the Lighting of the Lamp at Vespers". Other songs that are part of the Vespers service include "Rejoice, Rejoice" and "Shalom My Friends." Noting the inclusion of the song "Upon Giving Thanks for Incense," Brother Al explained that both the Jewish Havdalah and the Catholic Vespers has an olfactory or smell component.
As they close the service, Brother Al says, "Shavua Tov" wishing Steve a "good week" and Steve responds by wishing Al, "Shabbat Shalom" or a peaceful Sabbath.
"We light candles as an external expression of prayer, said Brother Al ending the event with a quote from the Sufi / Muslim poet, Rumi, "A candle doesn't lose its light by enlightening another candle."
The 13th century Persian poet also said, “Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field. I'll meet you there." And sometimes it is enough just to pray beside each other because as Rumi said, "When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”
Community of Humanity Blog (2014-2016) Kimberly Burnham, PhD
Published in over 100 books, Kimberly Burnham is a writer, poet, and complementary medicine practitioner. She authored Awakenings: Peace Dictionary, Language and the Mind, a Daily Brain Health Program for people interested in improving their brain clarity, creativity and muscle movements. Her current project focuses on color words, the brain and vision health designed to assist people in seeing better. Kimberly's Ph.D. (Integrative Medicine) considered manual therapy techniques (Integrative Manual Therapy, Matrix Energetics, Acupressure, Reiki) and health coaching for people with Parkinson's disease. She is an avid gardener and environmentalist, who bicycled 3000 miles across the U.S. in 2013. Kimberly Burnham is the managing editor of Inner Child Magazine and on the board of The United World Movement for Children. For a brain health coaching phone consultation or an appointment in Spokane, Washington contact Kimberly at https://www.nervewhisperer.solutions/ or email her at NerveWhisperer@gmail.com.
Kimberly Burnham, PhD (Integrative Medicine)
860-221-8510 phone and what's app. Skype: Kimberly Burnham (Spokane, Washington)
Chat with Kimberly about Parkinson's, Poetry or other Brain related issues.
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See her list of publications including her latest book of brain health meditations, Awakenings: Peace Dictionary, Language and the Mind, a Daily Brain Health Program.
Designed to enhance memory, creativity, and inner peace, Awakenings: Peace,Dictionary, Language and the Mind, a Daily Brain Health Program is available free of charge as a Kindle eBook on February 14-15, 2019. [Click Here].
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I am looking for guest blog opportunities and a position as poet-in-residence. My current project is writing dictionary poems using words in different languages for the English word "peace." You can read some of my poems on Poemhunter .
As poet-in-residence I would write poems on different words in different languages and broadcast them throughout the social media blogosphere. Each poem would link back to your site where the word or language appeared.
I would expect some sort of stipend and a six month to one year placement. Please contact me for details if your organization is interested in having a poet-in-residence to help get your message out. Nervewhisperer@gmial.com
Buy the print or eBook, review Awakenings then contact Kimberly for a free 20 minute brain health consultation. Email or Phone
(Regular rates $120 per hour or 10 sessions for $650.)