Creating Multifaith Circles, Not Lines, About the War in Gaza and Israel 

The three authors are co-teaching the class, “Abrahamin Transformations,” through the Chicago Theological Seminary. The class has five Jewish seminarians, five Christian Seminarians and five Muslim seminarians. They co-wrote this letter to their students and hope that it might be a model for intergroup work that avoids statements.

Dear Students,

We hope this email finds each of you well, and that your friends and family in Israel/Palestine are also as well as can be hoped. We wanted to reach out to you before Jumuah/Shabbat/Sunday as we come to the end of a truly horrific week in Palestine/Israel. Like you, we have been watching events unfold (Dr. Kameelah was actually there in Palestine until midweek) with so much sadness for the terrible suffering in that region.

In full transparency, we must share with you all that over the course of the last several days the three of us (Rabbi Nancy, Dr Kameelah and Dr Shea) have struggled with how to speak with one another, navigate our different positionalities, experiences and worldviews. Where we eventually felt strength and alignment was in affirming that we are here to “create circles, not lines” and “be humble learners who practice deep listening. We return to the spirit with which we began this Abrahamic Transformations journey–and that is to nurture authentic relationships with one another, and acknowledge the complexities which shape our lives.

At this moment, we lament the loss of life and utter devastation taking place. Like many, we are also experiencing a range of emotion from rage to helplessness and despair. Further, many of us are feeling alienated, isolated, misunderstood and deeply hurt; at a loss. We are baffled by silences from those we consider allies. We are deeply saddened by the ways this violence is tearing at the heart of what we are striving to build as a community.

Rather than a “statement” about the war, what we humbly offer to you is an invitation. We invite you to reflect on what brings you solace in this moment of darkness. We invite you to acknowledge what is fearful and terrifying in this moment. We invite you to reflect on what you are praying for as the violence escalates. How might we join with one another as compassionate witnesses to each other’s stories and perspectives? How might we model here in this community that which we are longing for in the world?

We do not expect, nor require that anyone has a ready answer for any of the questions we are holding. We simply sit with and name our grief, sadness and feelings of overwhelm. We lift up the power of this community to offer space for healing and affirmation. We are reminded of just how precious and important our shared work is. We hope that you will join us in affirming life, and the commitment to carrying one another through these difficult times.

May love, peace and justice prevail,

Dr. Kameelah Mu’Min Oseguera, Rabbi Nancy Kreimer, Dr. Shea Watts

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