On March 27th Grace Farms Foundation, along with the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut and Building One Community, had the honor of hosting an Interfaith Seder led by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of Temple Beth-El, Reverend Mark Lingle of St. Francis’ Episcopal Church, and Dr. Kareem Adeeb of the American Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies.
The evening incorporated traditional Seder components, lead by Rabbi Hammerman, and emphasized the journey of migrant populations and the important role that a welcoming community plays in their lives. Recognizing that there is room at God’s table for all, each faith tradition addressed the current immigration crisis around the world.
Preceding the dinner, the clergy members each answered questions in a roundtable style format to reflect their respective faiths on the importance of this holiday and the ways in which the Abrahamic faiths intersect.
How does the celebration of the Interfaith Seder help people of different faiths be in conversation?
Rabbi Hammerman: It helps on several levels. This is the common story that, on some level, people of all faiths share. But it also comes at a time of year, springtime, when people are so filled with hope. It’s the perfect time to come together and celebrate our various holidays in this context.
Reverend Lingle: I think the interfaith Seder is a wonderful narrative of a particular story about the Jewish people and their liberation and freedom and movement to a home. It’s a story that resonates with a number of traditions, but also with people who are without a specific tradition, who have that sense of being a migrant on the move seeking a home. Wherever we are in life’s journey there are times when we feel very much at home and then there are other times when we are in the wilderness seeking that home. Migrants and refugees today are seeking a place where they can find a home, raise children, have a full life, and thrive. None of us chooses where we’re born, and none of us has any control over where we live—people fleeing violence and seeking safety are only doing what is natural. We would want to be welcomed if we were those individuals.—Reverend Mark Lingle of St. Francis’ Episcopal Church and Executive Director of the Interfaith Council
Dr. Adeeb: I like the word “inter-faith” instead of “inter-religious” because faith adds a spiritual component to it. Spirituality brings us together where religion has unfortunately brought us apart. Interfaith allows us to recognize our differences, respect each other and try to work together. The differences are important—we have different rituals, but all religions make you feel and experience the same things—mercy, love, compassion, kindness, and maintaining that focus on brotherhood and sisterhood. The Seder has been a great educational experience because it shows, in a way, how the different traditions are actually very similar. We try to encourage that. As far as the Interfaith Council, these are the three faiths we have the privilege and honor to present at this moment in time, and we will have the will to stay together, despite everything.
What makes Grace Farms uniquely situated to host this gathering?
Hammerman: If the land of Canaan weren’t available, I think God would have taken the children of Israel here. This is such a glorious place. What I’ve found so amazing working with my clergy colleagues is that we feel a sense that there are no boundaries between us. Nothing really separates us but there is so much that unites us – and being here at Grace Farms is part of what helps us achieve that sense of unity. I’ve felt a sense of sanctity, divine presence, and peace here, and have worked on many high holiday sermons, and come to meetings and programs. It really is God’s acre.
Lingle: It’s a wonderful space. The environment here is beautiful naturally—it’s peaceful. It’s also a place where there is no one tradition hosting, but rather open to all of them. That offers a wonderful entre into conversation because none of us are in the environment that we are used to, but we are all moving into this open space that removes barriers to our ability to speak to one another. It’s a wonderful space to engage in that faith conversation.
Adeeb: I’m an engineer, so I love the way the architecture blends into the landscape. The glass here just gives you this sense of feeling free and spiritual, a part of nature, not confined or between walls. You’re out, but you are protected. You have light—more insight. It kind of magnifies and reinforces the spiritual dimension of the person.
Why is Interfaith Dialogue so Important?
Lingle: To me, interfaith dialogue is critical. Creating understanding across traditions is the thing that will allow us to survive. Fear oftentimes drives the exclusiveness that exists within our society. I think one of the more profound ways of breaking down this fear is to put a face to what we see as “other.” When we provide the opportunity for people to come together and hear about others’ traditions, we continue to expand that community of people who have an understanding of “the other”. Because of that our communal bond is more secure and hopefully this creates a ripple effect so the community of tolerance and acceptance grows.
Hammerman: Although I grew up the child of a cantor of a Jewish clergy, what actually brought me to the Rabbinate was the study of other religious as a comparative religion major in college. I came to appreciate my own faith through seeing the faith of others. The more we can help people to do that here and in our own communities the better the world will be.
Adeeb: All my life I’ve tried to interact not to win—not to say my faith is better than yours, but to feel included. All scriptures are sent and revealed by god. I like to remember, that when Christians and Jews and Muslims are angry with each other on Earth, Muhammad and Jesus and Moses are up in Heaven, getting along.