For more than a decade, Martha Weiman has been part of a group of Jewish and Muslim women, sharing Passover communal Seders, breaking fast following Ramadan and discussing what’s important to both communities. Over the years as they’ve developed a bond, they’ve come to cherish these conversations, while recognizing how much they share in common.

The get-togethers were first conceived when Weiman chaired Baltimore Jewish Council’s (BJC) Jewish/Muslim Dialogue group. It’s one of many BJC initiatives organized over the years that focus on dialogue to build stronger communities.

Recognizing a need to engage younger adults in the conversation, BJC relaunched its programming last year with an interfaith trialogue series geared toward younger adults. Led by clergy from the three faiths –Charm City Tribe’s Rabbi Jessy Gross, Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore’s (MCCCB) Imam Tariq Najee-ullah and Canton Church on the Square’s Pastor Jim Hamilton – this year’s topics include a tour and post-election discussion on the intersection of politics and religion at the MCCCB  and a discussion on gentrification at the Church on the Square.

In addition, on March 30, participants are  invited to Stories from the Fringe, a stage production featuring the voices of 18 women rabbis exploring their commitment to Judaism. Held at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, Gross will lead a private pre-performance  workshop for trialogue attendees.

Already, these dialogues are paying off. “When I talk to participants they are telling me they are going out and having coffee with people they never would have connected with before. They are talking about various viewpoints. It’s beginning to build trust,” says Madeline Suggs, director of public affairs at BJC.

First conceived in January 2015, these three clergy met to discuss how religion could be helpful in strengthening relationships across race and faith lines through learning and dialogue. Following Freddie Gray’s death and the riots later that spring, they kept talking.

In the spring of 2016, they led a discussion on the intersection between faith and social justice at the Station North Arts Café.

“We want to educate and create relationships across faiths,” explains Najee-ullah. “We can’t grow and change if we are insular. By presenting different narratives from each of the faiths, we broaden our perspectives.”

“In our day-to-day lives, some of us may work or share other spaces with people of different backgrounds. Yet how often do we really take time to share our lives and intentionally build bridges?” asks Gabriel Pickus, who participated in the program.

In addition to BJC’s trialogue series, Muslim and Jewish community members are  coming together through Repair the World,  a program of Jewish Volunteer Connection. Recently, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Day., BJC, Repair the World and the MCCCB discussed the legacy of interfaith partnership in the civil rights movement

“Meeting Rabbi Jessy, I realize that although we are of different faiths, we share very similiar ideals and passions,” says Najee-ullah.

Ultimately, explains Suggs, “If we want to combat anti-Semitism, we must get to really know diverse groups of people.”

For information on Stories from the Fringe, contact Noah Mitchel nmitchel@baltjc.org.

Featured image: Rabbi Jessy Gross (middle) joins her counterparts, Pastor Jim Hamilton (left) and Imam Tariq Najee-ullah, for interfaith dialogues outside traditional institutions.

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