Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Raise your Voice!

Our goal is to increase your participation in our ongoing conversation about sacred texts in the coming year. Please share your thoughts with us by completing a brief survey

We appreciate your feedback and wish you blessings of peace in 2012,
Tziporah, Grace & Yasmina

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Response to "Peace on a Corner"

Corey-Jan’s “Peace on a Corner” moves me deeply.  Legend has it that, when Nazi soldiers moved into Denmark to isolate and remove the Jews living there, King Christian—along with members of his court—had a yellow star stitched onto his sleeve before riding in an open carriage through the streets of Copenhagen. First a dozen, then hundreds and thousands of Christians joined in this powerful act of resistance.  I often wonder how history might have been rewritten if all of my Christian forebears in Europe had done the same.  I wonder, too, how different our world might be right now if American Christians and Jews had, en masse, sung “Salaam/Shalom” alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters in the wake of 9/11. For Christians, Christmas is about the birth and continual rebirth of God incarnate, calling us to a radically new way of being and a peace that surpasses all understanding. From that center we can act in godly ways. As another song puts it, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

How desolate it is to think of a world where understanding is lost, and how uplifting it is to see the beauty of compassion light up a whole community in a festival of unity. With too many incidents of bigotry, prejudice, hatred and ignorance being committed against minorities, including Muslims, I still do not wish to dwell on these issues, but rather on their remedies. Like Corey-Jan, I reflect upon the present energy around me and the meanings of the holidays, although as a Muslim I am not celebrating them. In the spirit of the holiday season, I wish that we would all replenish our hearts with the wonder of God’s miracles, His Mercy and His Compassion. One of the beautiful names of God mentioned in the Quran is as-Salaam, which means the source of safety, peace and perfection. May every human discover the peace in their hearts, and may that peace spread to all corners of the world.

I asked Corey-Jan to share her song and allow us to respond to it because I had heard her perform it in a variety of settings, and each time it really affected me. I grew up singing traditional Hanukkah songs in Hebrew and Yiddish, and performed the classic "I Have a Little Dreidel" numerous times in Religious School. I also sang Christmas songs in my public school's choir, never once wondering why they were the only holiday songs on the radio. I remain a fan of Christmas music and attend concerts at local churches every year. But this year I find myself humming "Peace on a Corner" as I prepare for Hanukkah; it is stuck in my head alongside "Deck the Halls" and "Jingle Bells." Both the lyrics and the melody serve to boost my holiday spirit, reminding me that celebrating with friends is what increases the light and warmth on long winter nights. I pray that we are all enlightened by the music of the season, and that our spirits are raised as a new year of peace approaches.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Peace on a Corner"

Thanks to our reader Corey-Jan for sharing her music and wisdom with us this week. 
Click here to listen to this week’s sacred text, “Peace on a Corner.”

I was initially inspired to write “Peace on a Corner” because, listening to the radio, I heard about a zillion Christmas songs and very few songs about the holiday my family celebrates. And the one song that gets played the most is funny and entertaining—but it doesn’t shed any light on the meaning of the holiday. I was also inspired by the story of what happened in Billings, Montana in 1993, when a brick sailed through a Jewish family’s window because the family displayed a Hanukkah menorah (lamp) in their window. In response, several local churches invited each child in their congregation to make a paper menorah; these soon appeared in the windows of hundreds of Christian homes. A few days later, the local newspaper published a full-page drawing of a menorah, along with a general invitation for people to display it. By the end of the week, there were an estimated six thousand homes and businesses decorated for Hanukkah. The message was clear: Hate would not be tolerated.

The idea that hate can be—really, must be—combated by connection and understanding is so important. And the idea that everyone has something different to share —even within the same religion—is very near and dear to me. Particularly at this time of year, my family reaches out to share our holidays with people of other religions, and we seek opportunities to share in their holiday celebrations, as well. That way, the entire month of December is filled with a variety of traditions and celebrations, not merely with holidays which are narrowly defined as “ours” or “theirs.”
* * * * * * *

Corey-Jan is an award-winning playwright, poet and songwriter. Her work has been published and produced in a wide range of venues, and her unique book Diaspora Journey: A Passover Haggadah Drama has been performed as a Passover Seder in synagogues, churches and homes for more than a decade.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In Her Own Words

Each week, we strive to respond—as our name “She Answers Abraham” suggests—to the sacred texts that we share.  Last week, however, I was inspired to write a more personal reflection about the issue of proselytizing.  Yasmina's explanation of da'wa as an expression of humility convinced me that we three needed time to grapple with the texts and their contexts. Grace wisely counseled me to wait, to hold my initial thoughts for this week.  I am grateful to my friends for encouraging me to share both "answers" with you. Below is my first reply to Grace's post about proclaiming our faith.  

I welcome readers of all faiths to share their thoughts and experiences.  

B'virkat shalom (with blessings of peace),  

* * * * * * *

I once experienced being “witnessed to” by a proselytizing Christian, but only after my move to the southeast as an adult, when I was able to appreciate the zeal of a sincere missionary without feeling demeaned. Nor have I ever felt personally persecuted by a Christian missionary simply because he believed himself to be right and righteous. However, my equanimity in these situations was shattered when the teacher of my eight-year old daughter called to let me know that another girl—the daughter of Evangelical Christians—had offered to show her Jesus’ glory over lunch.  In that moment, I realized that I had failed to meet my obligations as a Jewish mother: I had not adequately taught my children what Jews do and do not believe about Jesus and personal salvation.  Once I recovered from my guilty feelings, I was truly grateful that I had been forced to clarify my beliefs because another person had proclaimed her faith.

* * * * * * * 

Tziporah writes weekly for the She Answers Abraham blog and prays daily for peace among all people. She seeks to raise her children to be both compassionate and righteous.