Conversations at the Mall

You may know that I grew up in Argentina. When I was seven years old, my mother of blessed memory, took me to one of the Jewish clubs so I could start playing soccer. In fact not soccer but indoor soccer.

I played indoor soccer for many years but when I was 15 years old I decided to play outdoor soccer, aka futbol, as well.

I discovered a completely different sport, with different rules, different ball size, and a different number of players. The essence of the game was the same, but indoor futbol and outdoor futbol were different. It didn’t feel the same.

A couple of months ago I started to accomplish one of my rabbinical goals. It has been one of my dreams. Be part of an ongoing interfaith conversation. I contacted a Catholic Monsignor, a Buddhist monk and a Muslim Imam and invited them to have lunch together at the Montgomery Mall. Before I tell you details of the day, I want to tell you that it was a great experience.   We agreed to meet on Presidents Day in the busy food court on a holiday for many in the Washington area. I arrived a half hour early to make sure we had a table to sit and talk. And we did talk about ourselves, our life experiences and our traditions.

In just 90 minutes we learned a lot from each other. I learned, for example, that the monk eats only two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, and he needs to finish his meal before noon every day. After that, he only consumes liquids.  I also learned that some people gain weight during Ramadan. Every night of Ramadan the Muslim community gathers together at the Mosque for a communal meal and they wake up before sunrise for another meal. And I learned that there are two types of priests in the Catholic church, they are called secular priests and religious priests. So there was lots of learning, lots of information and also lots of interesting similarities and differences.

All four of us are clergy, leading our people in common ways. Inside our temples, mosques, churches and synagogues we can touch a limited number of people – our members and guests who choose to come to religious services. I was surprised that, sitting at a mall, we became approachable by random people. Many passersby stopped and engaged us. They wanted to express how they felt when they saw the group of us together. A number of people who were at the mall searching for a material gift, also found themselves with a spiritual gift.

They shared with us their optimistic words of hope and, words of encouragement.

Some told us that our country needs more bridges and fewer separations. Yet others shared their desire to be part of a better society, a better country and a better world. In Hebrew we call that, Tikkun Olam.

One Monsignor, one Monk, one Imam, one Rabbi.

One Christian, one Buddhist, one Muslim, one Jewish.

One born in the USA, one in Thailand, one in Iran, one in Argentina.

All of us with many things in common. All of us with the intention to create a better world.

 

We plan to continue meeting and continue building bridges among ourselves and among our communities.

 

We believe that in our own community it is possible to help build those bridges and contribute to making it a better world!!!

 

 

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin