Baltimore residents will have the opportunity to learn more about their Muslim, Jewish and Christian neighbors over the next few months as part of an Interfaith Trialogue Series sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council.
The BJC has partnered with the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore, Church on the Square and JCC senior director of Jewish life Rabbi Jessy Gross for the three-part series, each part of which will take place in a different house of worship led by a clergy member. The series kicks off on Nov. 20 with Imam Tariq Najee-Ullah leading a discussion at the Muslim Community Cultural Center.
“We are really trying to target those members of our communities who are under 40 about their interests and involvement,” said Najee-Ullah. “We do not know everything about one another. One of our biggest motivations with this conversation is to get people to escape the bubbles of their own communities and branch out. That is why we are changing the house of worship for every discussion.”
Sunday’s event will provide attendees the opportunity to tour a mosque as well as listen to the imam give an overview of the tenets of Muslim faith. Additionally, the event includes a food drive for members of the local community.
“This is the time to ask any questions that you have about Muslims and Islam,” Najee-Ullah said. “The election results have made it clear how little we know about each other. We need to actively work to bring people together and eliminate ignorance within all of our communities, and the current political climate is all the more reason to unite.”
Gross will be leading a workshop in March at the Owings Mills JCC as the second part of the series. Her workshop will include a performance of “Stories from the Fringe,” a play about women who have become rabbis. “It will be a great opportunity to give people who come an insight into my own Judaism, which motivates my following of tradition,” she said.
“We have been meeting monthly for the past year and a half,” Gross added in explaining how the trialogue came together. “Back in May we held our first public gathering and invited participants to join the conversation that we were having with each other, which centered around how being a person of faith and religious traditions can help strengthen our ties to each other and instill our values in the next generation.”
Although it is a topic that they wish to keep discussing, the first meeting was difficult to lead — “none of us still think it is a good idea to bring together a group of 30 people who have never met and ask them to speak with and challenge each other on such a subject as religion,” she said.
However, it was obvious that everyone who showed up wanted an experience that they had not had before. Setting up the trialogue was the perfect opportunity to bring interested individuals together in a more controlled and constructive environment.
“We want to make it more common for people to interact in places of different faiths,” Gross said. “That way we can create an opportunity for people who do not know each other to come together and learn what the other is all about.”
“We want this to be a constructive conversation, not a lecture,” she added. “It gives us the opportunity to express what the particularities and interpretations there are in our different religions that make each so rich. We want to promote participation with other faiths.”
Najee-Ullah also expressed a desire to get the community actively involved in service work as well as discussions. “We want to do actual service and eliminate ignorance of one another.”
Najee-Ullah and the other faith leaders are currently in discussions about beginning a nonprofit organization in Baltimore solely for interfaith service work within local communities.
For more information on the Interfaith Trialogue, visit bit.ly/2fDHqdX.