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A Word from Rabbi Schulman - 1/24/14

Tri Cities Interfaith Council World Harmony Celebration

Everyone knows that the residents of Fremont, Newark, and Union City come from a wide array of backgrounds. Fremont itself has been credited as being the most ethnically diverse city of its size in the entire United States. We experience diversity in our neighborhoods, our public schools, and in many cases, in our places of work.

But how well do we really know our fellow citizens? I know of some Temple families who have warm relationships with their neighbors, sharing meals and holiday celebrations. However, too often, we really do not know much about people whose faith is different than our own. We may be unfamiliar with the basic tenets of another person’s faith and, as a result, feel uncomfortable asking a neighbor or co-worker about his or her beliefs and practices. We may be afraid of inadvertently offending someone, so we refrain from crossing the boundary of cordial politeness.

On Saturday, February 1, we have an opportunity to learn about other people’s religious faiths by participating in an Interfaith Harmony Day. The origin for this event derives from a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly that states: “mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace” and so the UN “establishes World Interfaith Harmony Week as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith.”

The local lead organizer of the event, Moina Shaiq, is a member of the Alameda County Human Relations Commission and founder of the Muslim Support Network. She said she wants this event to happen in the Tri -Cities area, “to build bridges of understanding, respect and support among diverse people of faith through education, dialogue and socialization and to strengthen family and community in solidarity with others across lines of race, class and religion.”

I have been a member of the planning committee for this first ever event in the Tri-Cities region. There are three key components that will transpire on Saturday afternoon from 1-4pm. During the first hour, attendees are welcome to stop by and learn about different faiths by visiting booths sponsored by religious communities. In the second hour, we will meet in small groups and through facilitated discussions offer people an opportunity while enjoying refreshments to share about our own faith. In the third hour, there will be a panel presentation represented by different spiritual leaders (including me) which is meant to be dynamic and interactive.

The program will take place at Fremont Veterans Memorial Building in Niles, located at 37154 2nd St. in Fremont. This first ever Interfaith Harmony event is meant to be a safe and supportive environment for us to deepen our appreciation for people of different faith communities. I think it is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the rich diversity of our community.

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