Letter of the President

Dear friends:In August, I traveled to South Africa for my first visit since 1978. It is a different country, although I suppose that nothing can change the immense physical and natural beauty that was always there.

I am happy to report that although there is no member organization of the ICCJ presently in South Africa, inter-religious dialogue there is alive and well, at least in the two cities I visited, Johannesburg and Cape Town. To some extent, the social and political change I observed was brought about by people of different faiths working together, encouraged by their great leader Nelson Mandela. They still have many problems and challenges, and it may take two or three generations to overcome widespread poverty and enormous social gaps. But my feeling is that they are moving in a positive direction and at least have done away with one of the 20th century’s great evils—the scourge of apartheid.


I hope to continue my contacts with Jews, Christians and Muslims there, and perhaps in the future, they will begin to be represented at some of our international events. An imam in Cape Town, Dr. Rashied Omar, is already on the international Steering Committee of our Abrahamic Forum. I shared an inter-religious platform with him on the question, “Can Religion be a Force for Peace?”


Speaking of that frustratingly- elusive- but-ever-so-important goal of peace, we can’t ignore what is happening with Palestine in the United Nations. I have posted on our Forum something that was shared with me by our member Claude Lhuissier Noël of France (with her permission, of course.) Perhaps this will get a conversation started.


In the meantime, I want to wish everyone a year of health, happiness, and peace. This is connected with the Jewish New Year but not limited exclusively to Jews. The traditional liturgy for the festival expresses our concern for all the inhabitants of the earth. In fact, there are two rabbinic traditions about what the festival is actually celebrating. One tradition links Rosh Hashanah with the creation of the world. The other—which I actually prefer—says that the world was created on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Elul. Six days later (according to the Biblical narrative,)  on the first of Tishrei, the date of the New Year, we celebrate the creation of Adam and Eve, the first human beings. I especially like this tradition because it fits in well with the Mishna that says, “If you save one human life, it’s as if you saved a whole world; but if (I would add ‘God forbid!’) you destroy one human life, it’s as if you destroyed a whole world.”


Let’s hope that this New Year brings us lots of life and hope—best wishes, Debbie