Better Together: Mulling in a Mosque

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           The building came out of nowhere, or so I thought. Though it may just have been startling because I was chatting with my van-mates instead of paying attention to the ride.

            Regardless, as I felt myself slide across my seat, I tuned back in to actions of the driver. He was turning…right into a set of iron-wrought gates marking the entrance of a gold topped, subtle-burgundy painted mosque, where several men where entering and a little girl and her father were rushing towards the doors for the first of two annual Eid services.

            The little girl was adorable, dressed in bright pink cloth and trying to wrap a matching scarf around her head in the strong Hurricane Sandy breeze that seemed to funnel in the parking lot.

            I’m glad I noticed her; because I was reminded to quickly put on my (plain white) scarf as well.

            After our two vans dropped us off, Dr. Parvez Ahmed – the man who conducted our Coffee and Conversation on Islam – ushered us in through the informational-poster adorned hallway and into a rotunda where we abandoned our shoes next to the entrance of the alcove where the females were gathered for worship.

            I’m not going to lie…being able to wander barefooted onto the rich indigo, red stripped, gold accented carpet of the prayer area was a very comforting feeling. When I was little we had a beige carpet (since it was before tile became popular) – in my house that felt just like it. Plus, it reminded me of my slippers!

            Since we were guests we were not expected to participate in the actual prayer, which I admit was a point of nervousness for me as I knew very little of their routine. I was also glad that there were practitioners – elderly or unable to stand with ease – who sat in the row of chairs in front of us, so we weren’t alone. I wanted to give up my seat a couple of times when someone new came in and saw there were no seats open but looked like they wanted a chair…but someone always managed to carry one in from somewhere else.

            It was quiet, for the most part, but what I would consider a “comfortable silence”. No one was disturbed by the insistent flow of people who’d enter as the prayer leader gave his sermon on positive attitudes even in the face of adversity, taking their time to go through each of the series of postures before settling down to listen, or when people murmured greetings or guided the behavior of young children.

            Even the females positioned behind us reclined on the carpet, sharing smiles, nods and hugs as their friends joined them.

            The casual atmosphere a good thing too; the room was packed and then some (there were people watching from outside the doorways) – even though we found out later that there was less people there than usual, since, as a holiday, most people went to a special morning service.

            Half of the sermon was done in Arabic, as tradition dictates, and there was some singing in Arabic too. Above us was a vaulted ceiling with enlarged Arabic, gold script on an indigo background. I’ve had very little exposure to the language and was surprised at how melodic it could be! The writing on the ceiling made it even more beautiful, because it made a pleasant visual – seemingly all swirls and dots.

            The ceremony itself didn’t take long – not even an hour. Dr. Ahmed came to fetch us after it concluded to lead us – with shoes – back down the hall to his office for reflection.

            And it was quite the conversation!

            We covered many various aspects of the faith and what we had just witnessed, including, but not limited to, English translation and meaning of the Arabic scripture, reasoning for their prayer mandates and style, and some difference between Christian and Islamic texts – most notably the story of Abraham and his son, whom is Ishmael, rather than Isaac, in their tale, who was to be sacrificed by God’s order. Dr. Ahmed said “This is not just the story of a servant of God. It is the story of people. The story of a father and his son.” In the Qur’an, there are added accounts which tell of the son’s perspective of being told he would be sacrificed and the discussion which ensued between him and his father, filled with the anguish and resolve they shared.

           It was encouraging to be able to ask whatever questions were on our mind.

           I, myself, asked about the Islamic men and women in U.S. military, which can be said in some cases to be looked upon with some distrust, both by fellow service personnel and the by the people in the foreign countries that they are stationed at.

           Interestingly enough, Muslims believe it is there duty to aid and defend their country. It is considered honorable to serve in the U.S. military as much as anyone else. Muhammad, their prophet, “was himself a warrior”.

            But that’s not the only way they serve. We were also informed that the Center has a medical facility, staffed by licensed practitioners of the community who donate their time, which enables low-income qualified people of any religion to get the healthcare they need free of charge.

            Sadly, we had to leave all too soon, but he did give us his contact information in case we had any questions, and expressed his wish that we would return.

            We took this picture in commemoration of the trip!

            It wasn’t quite sunset when we returned to school for an open-circle dialog, exploring the effect the trip had on us and our perception of Islam and its followers. It made me happy to know not one of us left and returned the same!

President’s Challenge

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      As a student of UNF, an intern with the Interfaith Center, as well as Vice President of the interfaith club Better Together @ UNF, I want to extend congratulations to the University of North Florida’s Interfaith Center for officially being accepted as a participant of the 2012 of the new White House initiative “Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge”!

     “Interfaith service involves people from different religious and non-religious backgrounds tackling community challenges together – for example, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Jews, and Muslims and non-believers — building a Habitat for Humanity house together. Interfaith service impacts specific community challenges, from homelessness to mentoring to the environment, while building social capital and civility,” says the White House at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ofbnp/interfaithservice, where President Barack Obama also left his own statements in a video. “American colleges, community colleges, and universities have often been at the forefront of solving our nation’s greatest challenges. In response to the first year of the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, this year over 250 institutions of higher education are making the vision for interfaith cooperation and community service a reality on campuses across the country.

    Throughout the year the staff of the Interfaith Center will continue to promote its mission among the student body (and at extension, the community at large), and continue to keep the White House appraised of its impact as part of a nationwide partnership to better the country.

    Please join me in continuing to provide their program support, and give them a round of applause for their hard work!

Coffee and Conversation: Dr. Ahmed and the Allah Doctorine

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            Islam, as one of the fastest growing religions, is also one of the most misunderstood.

            But so is the conflict in the Middle East.

            After the opening introductions where participants were able to share their motivation for coming to this year’s third Coffee and Conversation, Dr. Ahmed, associate professor of Finance here at UNF and resident Muslim on the Islamic Center of North East Florida’s board of directors, noted that our group was less interested in the religion itself, and more interested in the people who practice it, particularly, those involved in the struggles overseas.

            So that’s where he steered his discussion.

            He began by explaining the Arab Spring – the social media organized uprising in the Arab nations. The event he found to be inevitable after a study abroad with a group of students a few semesters back in Egypt, where even his students recognized their restless energy, in light of realizing they have no favorable future, and no aid from external forces that hold the same beliefs and have better resources in which to implement change.

           He remembered remarking to his Egyptian friends that a change was coming. He couldn’t predict how or when, but it would happen. People, especially the idealistic youth, were not satisfied with the established regimes, and that vitality would be put to use somehow.

            But interestingly enough, he also noted that Democracy isn’t always satisfactory. Taking down one regime does not leave it open for a perfect governing body to take over, and give immediate relief and answers to the people.

          Much of the Arab world is made up of individuals 25 years or younger more informed about Americans than the other way around. Dr. Ahmed even asserted the current foreign policy makers are confused because they are unaware of the complexities of the people in other cultures. This may be a throwback to the root of some Anti-American sentiment in those areas now – that the British left the territories, but their own, handpicked people to lead the people they knew and cared little about. Those people became dictators, dividing up and consolidating land as they saw fit, and not as it made sense to the diverse populations that inhabited them. Then when the people began to protest, those same people directed that anger towards the West, to quell rebellion.

           Regardless, he finds this inexcusable, as we Americans have access – more access than most – to technology and information.

           So it is up to us, American youth, to learn about the other cultures, acknowledge their plights, and prepare ourselves for a future in which the youth of these nations will be our possible business partners and allies. Every assumption we make could affect politics, and therefore, foreign policy.

           For this, he suggested we not read our news, but their native news, like a Turkish newspaper. Some sources are written in English, and they tend to even point out their own biases!

            But he also reiterated how crucial it was to do more than just understand. We must engage that knowledge in pro-active measures, and inspire others to do the same, for that is the difference between idealism and the catalyst of transformation.

            It doesn’t even have to change in the end. Historically, religion is more integrated in the lives of the Eastern peoples than the Westerners. In Turkey, for example, their religious leaders are religious (though it is simply a correlation, and doesn’t explain causation. Their officials are elected, and so it is unclear whether the people are more open to religious leaders, or if the leaders in office being openly religious caused the people to be more open to religion in politics and continue to vote them in). History has also demonstrated that even though someone may campaign on the extreme sides of politics in order to be functional, that same person must become more moderate in order to garner cooperation from other leaders and influence people.

            We must also be conscientious of the bigger picture and the smaller details.

            Better Together’s first stop on that journey?

            Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, Friday Oct. 26th to join them for their Friday prayer and observe their holiday atmosphere!

Interfaith Ritual

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           Family Weekend took place October 12-14 this year, and on that final day, so did a very special ceremony (courtesy of our very own coordinator, Ms. Rachael McNeal)!

            It was called “Rites of Passage”, because – as we all know – attending college is a huge step on the path of our own destinies as students, and of the beginning of a third major life stage of the guardians’ letting us go.

            Guests were welcomed in during the mid-morning ceremony by drums played by our Director, Ms. Tarah Trueblood, and C.J. Griggs, of the Unitarian Universalist Student Union.

            We opened the actual presentation with a welcome and introductions, before one of two communal readings (bold recited together): “Two Kinds of Intelligence,” by Rumi.

There are two kinds of intelligence:

One acquired,

as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts

from books and from what the teacher says,

collecting information from the traditional sciences

as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.

You get ranked ahead or behind others

in regard to your competence in retaining information.

You stroll with this intelligence

in and out of fields of knowledge,

 getting always more marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet,

one already completed and preserved inside you.

A spring overflowing its springbox.

A freshness in the center of the chest.

This other intelligence

does not turn yellow or stagnate.

It’s fluid,

and it does not move from outside to inside

through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead

from within you,

moving out.

           Every faith tradition has a “Golden Rule” variation – “do unto others, as you want done onto you,” and the Interfaith Center staff proved it, by reading several of those variations after we finished with the poem.

           Once those voices faded away, Ms. Rachael explained a blessing ritual she organized, which included an interfaith blessing which would be recited by the student or guardian as an assistant poured water (a substance of purity) was poured over their hands into a bowl, before the roles were switched, successfully completing the “Rite of Passage.”

            Then a few minutes were freed for people to pray or meditate or make a prayer bundle for our prayer shawl as CJ played his drum.

            We closed with our second communal reading, which I lead, called “A Garden Among the Flames,” by Ibn Al-Arabi.

O, Marvel,

A garden among the flames!
My heart can take on

Any form:
A meadow for gazelles,
A cloister for monks,
For the idols, sacred ground,

Ka’ba for the circling pilgrim,
the tables for the Torah,
the scrolls of the Qur’an.
My creed is love;

Wherever its caravan turns along the way,
That is my belief,
My faith.

            And it was good note to end on, I thought, because I was able to speak from the heart, and I had feeling the audience did as well. We knew that no matter where we came from and where we were going, love would be present for all, from all.

            It’s the most wonderful of all beliefs to hold on to, if you ask me!

Better Together: Temple Template

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     I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve gone to a religious service, and the majority of those were weddings and funerals.

     What can I say? When I was younger, sitting for long periods of time while being lectured wasn’t any more fun for me outside of school than inside.

     But I’m older now.

      I still haven’t gone to any services though, that is until now. Needless to say, I was not sure how I felt about it – though I was pretty sure I knew what to expect.

     But I was wrong.

     After hopping into a glorified van with 8 other epic Better Togetherers, despite the rain and running a little late, we arrived at Congregation Ahavath Chesed, otherwise known as “The Temple” – a Jewish Reform congregation here in Jacksonville – for their Friday evening service (because their day starts at sundown and therefore services are held on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings).

     While we waited for the official ‘greeting-of-your-neighbors’ to begin so we could slip in without interrupting the service, we placed the donation canned goods we brought on their table set-up.

     I was pleased with our haul, especially knowing how every can counts – less still would’ve been more. I discovered the collection will be delivered by the congregation to Winn-Dixie’s emergency food pantry, which feeds anyone and everyone in need, regardless of religion.

      A common good with common goods, you could say! Then, as a woman thanked us for our gifts, our opportunity came and we moved into the spacious congregation room.

      The first thing I noticed was the amount of people; knowing how small the Jewish community is in Jacksonville, I expected there to be maybe 30-50 people – no bigger than my classes here at the university- but there had to have been more than that (close to 150)!

     It didn’t feel packed; rather cozy in fact, much like our Better Together meetings.

     It could’ve been the soft murmur of voices, or the curious, open faces with an occasional smile. It could’ve been the light-hearted music accompanying melodic Hebrew preformed on the left side of the brightly adorned altar…

     There may not be one, distinct reason, but it was distinctly pleasant – like walking into a family get-together for the first time with a family friend. You’re a friend by association, and everyone’s welcome to revel in the celebratory atmosphere.

     The second thing I noticed as we slid into a polished pew towards the back (in-between a woman and her husband that looked like Albert Einstein, and the lady on our other side who noticed how confused we were and got up to find us a service program to follow along) was the walls.

     The back half of them were adorned with plaques, some which had little elevator-button styled lights lit up beside them. It wasn’t until the end of the service we found out what they were for – I’ll explain that later.

      So I tuned back into the actual music of the band on stage as they wrapped up their first piece and made way for a young lady who went up to the podium to recite a minute long reflection on their Sukkot (7 day a “Jewish harvest festival beginning on the 15th of Tishri and commemorating the temporary shelters used by the Jews during their wandering in the wilderness” – find more information at http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm) theme:

      Seeing isn’t always reason enough to believe.

      She was one of many youths who did so, each with their own story, broken up by short songs in-between, which took up the first half of the service.

      The remainder of the service was divide between an actual sermon – highlighted by a jovial unrolling of the Torah for their last section before its re-rolling at the start of their new year – and announcements.

   Perhaps the most surprising moments came when the Rabbi announced the list of those in the congregation – or connected to those in the congregation – in need of healing. It was a long list; and after he had finished he invited people to stand up who knew of others that needed to be added. There were a good handful of those people, and most of them had more than one name to give.

     It made me grateful to be in such good health and to know that everyone I knew was in good health. It also made me happy to see that even people outside of the congregation had a chance to be equally thought about by this congregation.

      They also listed the names of the deceased, including one they had lost that very week. We eventually learned that the panels in the back were for these past congregation members, and the buttons were lit beside them in acknowledgement of the anniversary of their death.

     That also wasn’t a short list; it both made me sad for them to have lost so many, but also happy that they were able to meet so many individuals, and that those individuals are so loved-even after death

     The rest of the service didn’t last much longer, though we did get a pleasantly surprising shout-out from the junior Rabbi as he read through his bullet points.

     Afterwards Sean (a fellow Better Together member) and I got separated from the main group as we tried to exit and met one of the leading ladies of the congregation who was kind enough to show us the Torah! Actually, she showed us where they store all 7 copies they have – including one damaged scroll which was given to them “in trust” and was smuggled out of a village in Czechoslovakia that didn’t survive the Holocaust. She then took the one they had used that evening out of its adornments and laid it out on the podium to explain to us its logistics – it has no punctuation, always written in Hebrew by a scribe (could take 18-24 months to create and is very expensive), and is read from right to left, in columns.

      It was amazing.

      Though I did miss out on their sukkah (“a booth or hut roofed with branches, built against or near a house or synagogue and used during the Jewish festival of Sukkoth as a temporary dining or living area”) constructed outside on the lawn, with snacks and a pretty set-up of white Christmas lights, laterns, and fresh foliage, that our main group took photos under while we had our impromptu lesson that Sean and I, in the end, didn’t have time to see in person.

      Hana and Ms. Tarah came to find us, and rounded everyone else up to be part of the impromptu Torah-lesson when they realized what we were up to.

      I can’t say it was a regrettable trade off!

      But we had to leave all too soon, and returned to UNF for a round-table reflection on what we learned, what surprised us, how our perspective of the religion changed, etc. It really gave us time to connect to each other and digest all that happened during the trip, and with pizza. Ms. Tarah even brought out a English printed copy of the Torah to look at, as well as a genuine piece of a Torah which had been cut up to be smuggled out of a different city during the Holocaust.

     Now I can’t wait for our next field trip to the mosque!

Fall Calendar: Events and Religious Holidays

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Provided is an EPIC LIST of ALL Interfaith Center events through December! Those dates will be posted below each list of Holiday dates for each month. PLEASE contact the Interfaith Center staff with any questions or concerns! :)

If YOU ARE INTERESTED IN AN EVENT, please “Join” the event on Facebook, so we know who all wants to participate and you don’t forget! Furthermore, we may ADD, CANCEL OR MOVE events around. This will keep you up to date.

Interfaith Center Events: https://www.facebook.com/UNFInterfaithCenter/events ; IC Page: https://www.facebook.com/UNFInterfaithCenter?ref=stream

Better Together Page:  https://www.facebook.com/BetterTogetherAtUnf

Also below is for all those who’ve been wondering, a copy of the Interfaith Center’s collection of spiritual events! You can find future dates and descriptions of each event on the main page here:

http://www.interfaithcalendar.org/

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 OCTOBER 2012

  • 1-7 (1-2 Primary Obligation Days)
    • Sukkot * – Judaism
  • 4
    • Saint Francis Day – Catholic Christian
  • 8
    • Shemini Atzeret * – Judaism
    • Thanksgiving – Canada – Interfaith
  • 9
    • Simhat Torah *- Judaism
  • 16-23
    • Navaratri ** – Hindu
  • 18
    • Saint Luke – Apostle and Evangelist – Christian
  • 20
    • Birth of the Báb * – Baha’i
    • Installation of Scriptures as Gukru Granth – Sikh
  • 24
    • Dasera ** – Hindu
  • 25
    • Waqf al Arafa – Hajj Day * – Islam
  • 26-29
    • Eid al Adha * ** – Islam
  • 28
    • Milvian Bridge Day – Christian
    • Reformation Day ** – Protestant Christian
  • 31
    • All Hallows Eve – Christian

Upcoming UNF related events (also listed on the Interfaith Center’s and Better Together’s Facebook pages):

Oct. 1st: Last day to RSVP for the Shabbat field trip on the following Friday, October 5th at 6pm. Free transportation provided. Cost: ONE CAN GOOD TO DONATE TO THEIR FOOD PANTRY!

Oct. 2nd: International Day of Non-Violence. A garland will be placed on the Gandhi statue in the Peace Plaza at 10am.

Oct. 3rd: Better Together meeting at 2PM. Theme: “Islam”. Special Guest: President of MSA.

Oct 4th: I-Dinner at 5:30PM. Theme: “Halloween”. Prizes, pumpkin decorating and Cuban food will be provided. Free! Location: Student Union Ballroom (Building 58 East/Third Floor).

Oct. 5th:  Shabbat field trip. Meet at the Student Union circle for shuttle pick-up at 6PM!!!! Remember to bring: ONE CAN GOOD TO DONATE TO THEIR FOOD PANTRY! Also, please remember to dress modestly. No short-shorts, tank-tops or flip flops.

Oct. 14th: Family Weekend Special Event – “Rites of Passage”, Interfaith Ritual from 10-10:30AM. Purpose: to present rituals via dance, music, poetry, etc. from various faiths. Please apply to present your own ritual to Ms. Rachael McNeal, coordinator of the Interfaith Center.

Oct. 17th: Coffee and Conversation at 2PM. Theme: “Uprisings in ME are more complicated.” Special Guest: Dr. Ahmed. Free food provided.

Oct. 18th: Art & Soul Cafe at 5:30PM. Theme: “Jazz Collection.” Location: Student Union Ballrooms West, 2nd Floor, theatre.

Oct. 19th: Jazz workshop at 10AM. Location: Fine Arts building. Please consult Interfaith Center, Facebook, or event flyers for room number.

Oct. 22nd: Last day to RSVP for the Mosque field trip on the following Friday, October 26th at 1PM-5:30PM. Free transportation provided. Cost: N/A. Likely free, possibly a donation.

Oct. 26th:  See post above ^. DRESS CODE WILL BE ENFORCED: All participants must cover themselves appropriately. Women MUST cover their heads with scarves (if you don’t have one and can’t get one, please see Mrs. Tarah Trueblood, director of the Interfaith Center, or Hana Aschi, president of Better Together). Men MUST wear long pants. All MUST not show any skin besides face, hands, and feet. Please contact us with any questions or concerns! P.S. Clean, well-kept jeans are permissible. No holes, tears, rips, or tattering. No low-rise jeans unless appropriately covered by either a long scarf or shirt. Also, no low-cut shirts, unless exposed area is covered by the scarf. WE WILL BE KNEELING, SO WEAR SOMETHING COMFORTABLE.

Every Thursday (4th, 11th, 18th, 25th) at 9:15pm - please RSVP on Facebook, in person, or via email : “Seventh Chakra Circle” (has a Facebook), a meeting of multi-faith individuals at the secretary of Better Together – Emily Schroder’s – house to deepen their understanding of her faith – that of an Eclectic Wicca - as well as to facilitate dialogue on related religious beliefs like Predestination, Reincarnation, etc. Guided meditation utilized often.

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NOVEMBER 2012

  • 1
    • All Saint’s Day – Christian
    • Samhain – Beltane * – Wicca/Pagan Northern and Southern hemispheres
  • 2
    • All Soul’s Day – Catholic Christian
  • 11
    • Jain New Year ** – Jain
  • 11-15
    • Deepavali  ** – Hindu
  • 12
    • Birth of Baha’u’llah * – Bahai
  • 13
    • Diwali – Deepavali ** – Hindu – Jain – Sikh
  • 15
    • Hijra – New Year * ** – Islam
    • Nativity Fast through 12-25 – Orthodox Christian
  • 22
    • Thanksgiving  USA – Interfaith
  • 21
    • Yule – Christian
  • 24
    • Ashura * ** – Islam
    • Guru Tegh Bahadur Martyrdom – Sikh
  • 25
    • Christ the King – Christian
  • 26
    • Day of the Covenant * – Baha’i
  • 28
    • Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha * – Baha’i
    • Guru Nanak Dev Sahib birthday – Sikh
  • 30
    • Saint Andrew’s Day – Christian

Upcoming UNF related events (also listed on the Interfaith Center’s and Better Together’s Facebook pages):

Nov. 1st: I-Dinner at 5:30PM. Theme: “Trivia”. Prizes and specialty food will be provided. Free! Location: Student Union Ballroom (Building 58 East/Third Floor).

Nov. 4th: DAYLIGHTS SAVINGS TIME ENDS.

Nov. 7th: Better Together meeting at 2PM. Theme: “N/A”. Special Guest: N/A.

Nov. 14th: Coffee and Conversation at 2PM. Theme: “Deepening Curiosity.” Special Guest: Unitarian Universalist Rev. Hershom. Free food provided.

Nov. 15th: OneJax Interfaith Thanksgiving Gratitude Service at 6PM. Details forthcoming.

Nov. 17th:  Native American Celebration on the Green plus Social from 8AM-5PM. Details forthcoming.

Nov. 28th: Coffee and Conversation at 2PM. Theme: “Neo-Paganism.” Special Guest: Emily Schroder. Free food provided.

Nov. 29th:  I-Dinner at 5:30PM. Theme: “Chrisma-Hanu-Kwanzikah”. Prizes and specialty food will be provided. Free! Location: Student Union Ballroom (Building 58 East/Third Floor).

Every Thursday (1st, 8th, 15th, 29th) at 9:15pm - please RSVP on Facebook, in person, or via email : “Seventh Chakra Circle” (has a Facebook), a meeting of multi-faith individuals at the secretary of Better Together – Emily Schroder’s – house to deepen their understanding of her faith – that of an Eclectic Wicca - as well as to facilitate dialogue on related religious beliefs like Predestination, Reincarnation, etc. Guided meditation utilized often.

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DECEMBER 2012

  • 2
    • Advent – First Sunday – Christian
  • 6
    • Saint Nicholas Day – Christian
  • 8
    • Rohatsu (Bodhi Day)  ** – Buddhist
    • Immaculate Conception of Mary – Catholic Christian
  • 9-16
    • Hanukkah * – Judaism
  • 16-25
    • Posadas Navidenas – Christian
  • 21  Solstice
    • Yule * – Wicca/Pagan northern hemisphere
    • Litha * – Wicca/Pagan southern hemisphere
    • Yule – Christian
  • 25
    • Christmas * – Christian
    • Feast of the Nativity ** – Orthodox Christians
  • 26
    • Zarathosht Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra ** – Zoroastrian
  • 28
    • Holy Innocents – Christian
  • 30
    • Feast of the Holy Family – Catholic Christian
  • 31
    • Watch Night – Christian

Upcoming UNF related events (also listed on the Interfaith Center’s and Better Together’s Facebook pages):

Dec. 4th: Labyrinth Walk from 12-1 (come at any time during that hour).

Dec. 5th: Better Together at 2PM.

Coffee and Conversation: Riveting Rabbi

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            It’s your birthday, New Year’s and Earth Day, all on the same day.

            Talk about a celebration!

            The revelry, the reflection, the resolution…

            …there’s no time like:

            Rosh HaShanah.

            48 hours of unparalleled splendor for the Jewish people which other faith followers could appreciate.

            According to the Jewish calendar (which, just for a bit of trivia, is mainly a Lunar calendar, such as the Islamic people use, but also includes some Solar dates) 5,773 years ago on that very day, God created Adam and gifted him dominion over the Earth.

            Now, so many of thousands years later, the Jewish people honor this High Holy Day by conducting several rituals and observances.

            In fact, the previous month during the thirty day month of El, the Jews prepare for Rosh HaShanah through extra prayers, making amends, and other spirit-cleansing practices, etc.

            Because another name for Rosh HaShanah is:

            The Day of Judgment.

            They believe that this day, as the New Year, sets a tone for the rest of their year, just as they believe the head leads the body. Their actions, words, thoughts and feelings must be aligned with want they want for that year – a “clean slate”.

            They also believe God judges them on this day for what they’ve done the prior 12 months, and it influences His blessings in the coming year.

            Which is why this day has another name:

            The Day of Coronation.

            As Rabbi Shmuli – our guest speaker – enlightened us further: No king can be a king without a kingdom. No kingdom can be a kingdom without subjects.

            So they blow a ram’s horn (goat is acceptable, but never a cow), in order to represent the coronation of God (like trumpets announcing the arrival of royalty).

            For the Jewish people, it also sounds like the cry of a child, and their belief is that God, as our father, would – like a father, not ignore His child’s cry. He would also take pity if that child had done wrong, since they know they are sorry for their transgression.

            And they have much to cry about. Many Jews over the centuries have been slaughtered. They have been perhaps the most persecuted religion on Earth. As the Rabbi put it, it is a “miracle” any Jews still exist today, since it’s as much a culture as a faith.

            They don’t encourage conversion, either, which would help bolster their numbers, because of “Blood Libel” – the idea that through their mother, a Jewish child could inherit the  of their ancestors’ good deeds. Most notably Abraham – the man who nearly sacrificed his son when his loyalty was tested by God.

            As far as they’re concerned, you can’t be something you’re not. They won’t refuse you conversion in most circles, but they will seriously discuss with you the implications of such a change. You’re made the way you are by God, and since God made you that way, you shouldn’t feel the need to be any other way.

            It’s a good concept to keep in mind, for sure.