“Next to being the children of God our greatest privilege is being the brothers of each other.”
—Martin Buber

Rabbi Aaron SpiegelWe in the religion world use the word interfaith much too often. And in my opinion, most of what passes for interfaith dialogue is not dialogue at all — it’s a lecture about why I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s not that we’re all religious zealots, but most often the forum for these dialogues are set up to create division rather than civil discourse. Put simply, we’re much better at talking than listening.

I recently had a chance to experience real interfaith dialogue. Butler University students from Hillel, a Jewish student organization, and Muslim Student Alliance decided they wanted to organize a dinner and conversation around Eid and the High Holy Days. The two organizations have collaborated in the past couple years on similar events and have a great working and social relationship.

The students formulated the agenda, which was brilliantly simple — let’s each give the very basics of our holiday and then ask each other questions. Let’s eat together, listen to each other, and ask each other questions.

On the surface, the conversation seemed light and conversational. Yet, the exchange was profound. These young Jews and young Muslims genuinely shared with each other. There was no attempt at making nice; they genuinely liked talking to each other. There were no overt attempts at finding commonality; it was inherent. They recognized the humanity in one another. They learned about, and from, one another in ways that are lasting and powerful. I’m sure it will influence how these young adults see the “other” in their lives. I know it’s influenced mine!

Rabbi Aaron Spiegel is campus rabbi for Butler University.

Share Your Reflection



I really hape that these young adults will mature into man-hood with the same understanding of one another

Yes, it is possible that young people will teach us elders the way to understanding, reconciliation, transformation and peaceful co-existence. I am part of a program called Kids4Peace, which introduces interfaith dialogue, respectful observance of sacred prayer, and fun interaction to Jewish, Christian and Muslim children, ages 11-13 from both the USA and Israel/Palestine. There are many steps towards understanding and this way is just one.

I am a very "involved" Jew. At work, besides many Christians, I sat next to two Muslim women. Our similarities were remarkable. One woman had recently come back from Syria from studying in a Midrasa. My daughter had just come back from Israel studying in a seminary. My co-worker's father was introducing her to men for marriage, they could not be alone. My daughter was going through a similar process. My daughter's wedding dress had to cover her arms and her neck bone. Not an easy thing to find in America. My Muslim co-worker had the same issues with dress. The other Muslim woman twisted her head covering in unique and beautiful designs. I've seen similar fashions among orthodox women. Ultimately, we believed in the one nonhuman God, not three in one.