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Solidarity Through Service: NYC Feeds the Hungry

The day began with a question: “What’s your favorite food ritual?” We went around as each volunteer spoke of their favorite food moment from her tradition. Answers included the Sikh practice of Langar, family coming together for Christmas dinner, apples and honey on the Jewish new year (Rosh HaShanah), eating a mother’s Halwa for Hindu festivals and breaking the fast with friends on Ramadan.
Having gotten to know each other and bonded around the central role food plays in each of our lives, we were ready to dive in to making enchiladas for an incredible interfaith homelessness project that needed our help! B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue and The Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew are two visionary religious institutions here in NYC who work together to provide shelter to the homeless year-round.

Our volunteers collaborated beautifully, working to make a hearty meal for the women who utilize the shelter’s services. We all felt an uplifting sense of accomplishment as our day’s work came to a close. We reflected on the power of feeding others, and called to mind the divine nature of taking care of those in need. As a group we were mindful of what the experience gave to us as well, and noted the fact that all people have needs, whether financial, emotional or spiritual. We felt blessed to be able to take action together.

In the evening, when the meal was served, there was a lovely opportunity for mutual gratitude and learning. Hannah was able to return to enjoy the meal with the group of women who call the shelter space home. While verbal expressions of thankfulness were scattered throughout the evening, there was an unstated sense of community that bound those around the table together. Although personal histories and circumstances differed within the group, by the end of the meal everyone had laughed, shared a story or commented on a current event in a way that surely reminded us we are all part of a common, human community.

This was the third event out of the four that make up the Spring of Solidarity.The campaign will conclude on June 6th with an Empty Bowl Dinner benefit and celebration that all in the NYC area are invited to attend!

Volunteers for Solidarity Through Service

Volunteers for Solidarity Through Service

Listening to Tragedy | Sikhs Visit Holocaust Survivors

Both the Sikh and Jewish communities’ identities have been shaped by extensive oppression and violence. This past Sunday, members of each community had a chance to come together to learn about one another’s histories. Members of UNITED SIKHS and Park Avenue Synagogue gathered to brighten the day of elderly Holocaust survivors here in New York. The afternoon was filled with festive music sung in Hebrew, English and Yiddish, cookies in honor of the recent holiday, Purim, and much conversation.

I want to honor the communication that occurred between the Sikh and Jewish communities at this event, for I believe it is a beautiful example of interfaith action, the goal of the Faiths Act movement: As members of the Sikh community sat down with survivors of the Holocaust, they practiced an often forgotten act that is key to positive human interaction: listening. Listening is powerful. It is intentional, as opposed to the more passive act of hearing, and it holds up and amplifies the voice of the person to whom one is listening. It gives witness to the narrative of an individual or of an entire community. On Sunday, Jejiemder Singh, a Sikh man from Queens, sat down beside an elderly Jewish woman and became a witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust. He said this of his conversations: “When I met the people who escaped Europe in the time of Hitler’s control, and after listening to their life stories, I was moved. The fear they were living in was unimaginable.”

Jewish and Sikh narratives are, of course, unique. And yet they share common themes: devastating violence, ongoing discrimination, diaspora, value of tradition and love of community. On Sunday, when members of these communities actively listened to one another, these narratives were allowed to flow freely between people, creating relationships and solidarity. It was a moving day of interfaith action for the healing of human relationships.

The Faiths Act movement works for such collaborative activism, and I believe firmly in the power of people of faith coming together to tackle injustice in our broken world. Surely our wrecked human relationships are one of the most visible examples of the fact that our world is not as it is meant to be. On Sunday, I saw steps being taken to build relationship where it was lacking before.

A Voice Outside the Patriarchy: Inspiration from my Mother

Written by Faiths Act Fellow, Hannah Shirey, in honor of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2012.

My mother, a person of great faith, confidence and determination, is an example to me in many ways and is my Female Faith Hero. It was during my own teenage years that my Mom, Alice, was in the heart of her own personal journey of becoming a leader in our local, Iowan church. By watching her stand up against the long-standing tradition of gendered hierarchy in the church, I learned an important lesson that propels me in my current work:

It is easy to walk away from the brokenness of our world and our institutions. It is much more difficult—and much more important—to work for change within our corrupt, oppressive systems. Continue reading ‘A Voice Outside the Patriarchy: Inspiration from my Mother’ »