We often struggle with crafting interesting or catchy titles for each new program. Sometimes we latch on to something one of our guests said in the interview, as was the case with our recent program, which may win the dubious honor of having the longest title: Curiosity Over Assumptions, Interreligiosity Meets a New Generation.

But, please do know that it was not without much debate and extensive brainstorming among our entire staff to try to arrive at a title for the work of Aziza Hasan and Malka Haya Fenyvesi. With humility, I share some of the runners-up:

  • Reimagining Interfaith (blah)
  • Jewish-Muslim Relationship: The Next Generation (starring Patrick Stewart!)
  • Us & Them - Engaging the Other in Jewish/Muslim Conversation (blah)
  • The Next Generation of Interreligious (still a bit Trekky)

The struggle had to do with our attempts to avoid the words “interfaith,” “dialogue,” and “pluralism,” which we felt do not sufficiently carry the meaning and real importance of the work that many are doing around the world. We also didn’t want to invoke images of intergalactic pluralism (still a far off dream, I’m afraid).

Krista even brought up the shortcomings of these terms in the interview. Here is an excerpt from the transcript:

Ms. Tippett: I feel that the word “interfaith” or the adjective “interfaith,” even like the word “pluralism,” these words themselves are kind of safe and benign and maybe even boring. When, in fact, when people really have their hands and lives dug into this stuff, as you do, it’s anything but. I mean, it’s very dramatic. It’s galvanizing. It’s changing human life. Do you think about that, that problem of the words themselves getting in the way of communicating to the larger society, what the power of this is?

Ms. Hasan: Absolutely, and I’m glad you brought that up because, when we first started the program, that’s how I would describe it. I would say, you know, this is an interfaith dialog group, and it just wasn’t deep enough. I mean like I’ve been there, done that. I don’t need to do hugs and hummus. If anything, I want to be part of something that’s real, and so to be able to finally like understand the complexity beneath the surface and the importance of having honest conversations that deal with issues like identity and diversity of opinion and gender and so many other things.

Ms. Fenyvesi: I also think a lot about what one of our Fellows who’s actually a Rabbinical student right now said to me. He said, “I really feel like NewGround is about what it means to be Muslim and Jewish in America today.” So that’s not as short as pluralism or interfaith, but I think there’s something about it that really covers what we do.

So what do you think? What words really capture the importance and essence of this work? Or do the existing defaults — e.g. interfaith, pluralism, dialogue — work just fine?

Share Your Reflection



I agree that "interfaith," "pluralism," and "dialogue" are rather tired and perhaps even banal catchphrase-y terms. I'm reminded of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer in my religious tradition, Episcopalianism. Even though it made important steps forward in the progressive Christianity that Episcopalianism has come to represent, many of the prayers also lost a good deal of the aesthetic beauty--the poetry of the liturgy--that previous incarnations had captured. So I would argue that not only does the term you're seeking need to be more accurate in terms of the dynamism of this process, but it also needs to capture the poetry of what happens when people move to deeper levels of mutual understanding.

Perhaps some re-incarnation and/or modification of "religious humanism" might be appropriate, since, at least in my understanding, the religious humanist is one who recognizes both the particularities of his or her own religious tradition--the beauty of its forms, the importance of its communal rites, etc.--as well as the common human longing for contact with the Divine. Religious humanists also understand that religion doesn't provide neat, crisp answers to the deepest human problems, namely human suffering and cruelty, but that all religions at some level seek to engage and alleviate human suffering.

Thank you SOF, for bringing another program that makes my heart sing. Aziza and Malka give us faith in the possibility of a bright future. In the discussion, Krista asked whether the connections, discussions and bridges that New Ground are creating in the US, affect the global situation. I believe they do. Quantum physics indicates that what we think affects others in ways more mysterious than we can imagine. Changing one mind at time enhances the evolution of consciousness, the goal and spiritual purpose of the human journey. Learning to simultaneously celebrate our diversity and our individuality is possible, as these inspiring young women so clearly demonstrate.

On a very personal level, I love the honoring of 'curiosity' both in the title of the program, and as a spur to the work of New Ground. Our God-given gift of curiosity is what moves human story forward. For me, this is the mythic biblical 'Eve' who we should be celebrating rather than vilifying. In these transformational times, I ask in the words of Hillel: If not now, when?

My best wishes to Malka and Aziz. I wish I knew how to say the Hebrew words 'kol hakavod' (all kudos to you) in Arabic:-)

Heather Mendel

Language breaks when it is not carefully bent within the furnace of life. In attempting to create new shapes we are limited by the existing geometries, unless we practice our talent as neologists and command new terms into existence.

As someone living within two worlds, I've used the term 'bireligious' to describe the fact that I'm both a Buddhist and a Christian. As religious paradigms melt and flow together in a heart desired communication we see a greater activity in an arena we may tentatively call "inter communion".