When I recently told people I had begun working at Three Faiths Forum, the UK’s leading Interfaith organisation, I was met with comments saying how that is so good of me ESPECIALLY because of what is happening in the global political landscape at this time.
However, this narrative struck me as odd. Interfaith work is important all the time. Thinking interfaith activities are only ring fenced to certain periods of time – especially post events such as after the election of bigoted political leaders, or hate crimes – destroys the purpose of Interfaith work itself. The reason that events such as the rise in antisemitism, and the recent wave of Islamophobia happen is because of a reactive approach to interfaith work, rather than an interactive, proactive and preventative approach.
I recently attended a UJS lecture by Einat Wilf (an Israeli politician) where she described how being a Zionist does not mean that she cannot be a feminist. As labels are thrown into the conversation, the labels associated with organisations I am involved with encapsulate my beliefs to an outsider. However, they do not define the only causes I can believe in. Being involved in Jewish Zionist organisations, I was met with questions such as how can you work at an interfaith charity, framing the question with an anti-Zionist lens. But my question to them was, can I not be an advocate for Israel and also believe in religious coexistence, in a world where everyone has the right to their own homeland through fostering peaceful and effective dialogue? Until activists and students are thought of beyond just their political labels they won’t be able to work across communities and causes, breaking down such barriers enforced upon them.
In the film Denial, Deborah Lipstadt toured the ruins of Auschwitz with her associates. These crumbling infamous walls act as a symbol of the end of the Nazi regime and organised killing of over 6 million Jews across Europe. In the 21st century we are fortunate to have not faced the horror of previous generations, but we must honour their sacrifices to combat anti-Semitism. We face different challenges, where instead walls are virtual, built tweet by tweet, Facebook post by Facebook post, racist comments in the media on top of racist comments in the media.
As Jews we have a duty to support organisations dedicated to interfaith work or even solely religious based organisations. They work to foster dialogue and cooperation intra religion and inter religions, acting as the trunk of communal relations, opposed to one off campaigns that act as new leaves which grow, attract attention to their novel appearance, but eventually die, alongside their cause. Without ongoing interfaith engagement, the communal relations landscape is left barren, and exposed to unsustainable methods of promoting coexistence. Through organic, effective and meaningful actions, we can act as seeds of hope to plant in our communities by becoming involved with interfaith work.
Amber is soon to begin studying PPE at the New College of the Humanities. She is currently undertaking a Media and Communications internship at the Three Faiths Forum during her gap year.