Building Interfaith Relationships to Improve Lives

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Building Interfaith Relationships to Improve Lives

Shepherding the partnership between Abrahamic Alliance International and Jewish Silicon Valley, has impacted me both personally and professionally. I’ve built meaningful relationships, pushed myself to reach out across differences, and seen firsthand how working together to reach a common goal improves lives. I first met Rod Cardoza, the Founder and Executive Director of Abrahamic Alliance International, in the fall of 2018, over coffee at a Los Gatos coffee shop. Rod reached out to me because he was interested in expanding AAi’s partnerships in the Jewish community to include our community center. I had heard of AAi’s partnerships with regional synagogue communities and was excited to learn more. Rod immediately struck me as a thoughtful listener, powerful storyteller, and as someone deeply dedicated to a clear and compelling mission. That mission, “uniting Jews, Christians, and Muslims for active peacebuilding and poverty relief,” feels deeply symbiotic with Jewish Silicon Valley’s mission of “harnessing the power of community to improve lives, build bridges of understanding and strengthen the Jewish people.” I remember that we talked together for over an hour, and that I left our meeting abuzz with excitement, and not just from the coffee.

Since that meeting, I’ve collaborated with AAi and with Christian and Muslim leaders on planning and implementing a range of volunteer experiences, from meal preparation and distribution events and a powerful multipart in-person and online seminar entitled, “Understanding Muslim Neighbors,” in pre-pandemic times, to Habitat for Humanity builds and food distribution events over the last 18 months. These experiences invariably leave me with a sense for how much we humans have in common, with a feeling of optimism that comes from persevering through discomfort, and with a renewed appreciation for the benefits of hard work. 

That hard work manifests itself directly as food or shelter for those in need– a tangible and immediate way of improving lives. But the hard work also results in deepened relationships– something that takes showing up consistently over time. I’ve been doing my best to show up when I can over the last three years, and am starting to see the potential in the relationships I’m forming with Muslims and Christians doing this work. I have faith that the bridges of understanding we build over time are helping bring more empathy, compassion, and peace to our wounded world. 

I am inspired by members of our community like Rabbi Josh Berkenwald, Dorothy Dorsay, Iris Bendahan, Kitty Steinborn, Ken Adler, and Eva Rajna Lippmann to name a few, who have dedicated significant time and energy over many years to representing our communities and supporting the work of Abrahamic Alliance International. If you are interested in joining us in engaging with this effort, feel free to reach out to me directly at rabbihugh@jvalley.org, or sign up for an upcoming event here