The Abrahamic Family Reunion (AFR)
Fourth Annual Conference at Esalen Institute
March 21 to 25, 2010
Facilitated by Joseph Montville, Dulce Murphy, and Tamar Miller
Summary Written by Frank Poletti
In March 2010 the Abrahamic Family Reunion (AFR) met for the fourth annual conference at the Esalen Institute. The AFR is a growing network of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, who are working toward “healing history” among the three Abrahamic faiths by sharing best practices and strengthening relationships in ways that enhance the work of individuals, organizations, and the collective. With the support of Esalen Institute, TRACK TWO, and the Fetzer Institute, the AFR was launched a few years ago by Joseph Montville, and it engages in a variety of activities, including key note lectures, new educational programs at all levels of instruction, and network building through conferences and other events. Dulce Murphy and Carol Miskel, directors of TRACK TWO, Joseph Montville and Vanessa Brake of the AFR Project, and many others are involved in carrying forth the AFR’s mission.
The following is a brief summary of the AFR conference in March 2010 at the Esalen Institute. The biographies of the participants are listed at the end of this document.
Imam Faheem Shuaibe
Imam Faheem Shuaibe opened the presentations on Monday morning with an inspiring and unifying overview of Abraham and the Abrahamic vision. To understand the real nature of Abraham, Shuaibe described the potent Islamic concept of “FTR,” pronounced “Fitra.” FTR can be thought of symbolically in a few ways. For example, it is the Eternal nature of the Divine Will that evolves in material creation, or it can be conceived as the Original Divine potential within each human being that is realized in the course of time. FTR is thus the potent seed of Divine Energy that informs all growth and life. With this in mind, we can better understand Abraham, who is the symbol of Divine fecundity. We all arise out of and grow from an inherent nature that is personified in Abraham. In Abraham’s original unity, we are all One.
But Imam Shuaibe said there is another way to approach Abraham, which is through his humanity. According to The Koran, before receiving any revelation Abraham chose to be Hanifa, which is often translated as “upright” or “model of integrity.” Abraham led a model life of wholeness and well-being. He is a model by which others can judge their attainment of the full realization of our latent human potential. Imam Shuaibe said that his understanding of Abraham was influenced by the teachings of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, who was one of the most prominent Muslim leaders in America until his death in 2008.
Next, Shuaibe discussed three stages of development in spirituality that are comparable to the cognitive development that occurs in stages from child to adult:
The Star: Intuitive or Instinctual Insight (Feelings or Urges)
The Moon: Reflective Insights (Philosophical Understanding)
The Sun: Scientific Insights (“Forensic” Knowledge)
The Star symbolizes the excitement that begins the faith journey (the urge to do good in society). The Moon symbolizes the maturity that comes from reflection on one’s growth (the understanding of what is best for society). And the Sun symbolizes the manifestation in concrete form of the original impulse that started the process (institutionalizing what is best for society).
After Shuaibe’s presentation, there was some discussion in the group. A few people talked about the need to integrate the transcendence and immanence of the Divine in nature. Many in the group felt that the Abrahamic faiths need to overcome the orientation toward transcendence by re-emphasizing the immanent Divine in nature. Tamar Miller raised the issue of Abraham’s shadow side. For example, Abraham was known for smashing idols, and thus he represents a violent image, not a peaceful one. Shuaibe responded that this needs to be viewed figuratively and not literally. Sometimes we need to smash anachronistic ideas that people cling to because they no longer serve them. Because people cling so tightly, the smashing is necessary.
To close out his presentation, Imam Shuaibe noted that many disagreements and conflicts arise from people’s inability to hold oppositions in a larger intellectual framework. Shuaibe said we need to develop broader ways of thinking that can hold familiar oppositions like the transcendent and the immanent or the mystical and the practical.
Huda Abu Arqoub
On Monday Huda Abu Arqoub gave an update to the Esalen group on Abraham’s Vision programs, www.abrahamsvision.org. Abu Arqoub is a Muslim Palestinian woman who has dedicated her life to promoting human rights, social justice and gender equality issues in Palestine and beyond. Two years ago, Abu Arqoub joined Abraham’s Vision (AV) and AV founder Aaron Hahn Tapper, as the organization’s Palestinian Co-Executive Director. Abraham’s Vision is the only organization that runs a variety of long term experiential educational programs for Jewish, Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian University and high school students. It encourages them to explore their group and individual identities through experiential and political education and empowers participants to practice just alternatives to the status quo.
Abraham’s Vision’s two signature programs are the Vision Program and the Unity Program. These programs provide excellent opportunities for students to learn about their own multidimensional identity, which are influenced by location, gender, social status, and religion among other things. Through their participation, the students gain awareness of the complexity of their own identities. They begin to form a more nuanced sense of self in a pluralistic and globalized world. Students also learn how power dynamics in their own small group setting reflect those in the world at large. Through an affiliated wing of AV called the Center of Transformative Education (CTE), Abraham’s Vision will launch a new program in summer 2010 called Beyond Bridges, which will take a diverse group of university students to Israel-Palestine to examine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through new lenses.
After describing her work with Abraham’s Vision, Huda Abu Arqoub and Oren Kroll-Zeldin led the Esalen group through an experiential exercise concerning the comparison of sacred texts, using stories taken from the Torah and the Koran. Abu Arqoub and Kroll-Zeldin broke the group into separate genders and had each sub-group read selections from the story of Joseph/Yousef. During this experiential exercise, the group got a first-hand taste of some of the facilitation techniques that are used in the Vision Program and Unity Program.
After the two gender-based sub-groups were finished reading the text excerpts, they re-united to discuss the exercise. A number of people in the group were challenged by the facilitators to look at their tacit or habitual reactions to the exercise. For example, in reaction to frustration with time limits on the readings, one facilitator asked the group why the participants did not ask for more time. Both Abu Arqoub and Kroll-Zeldin said they often challenge habitual patterns of submission or reticence to speak during facilitations. In this instance, they challenged gender patterns relating to power, leadership, speech and silence.
Kroll-Zeldin and Abu Arqoub explained that one of the keys to the Abraham’s Vision’s programs is to get students to recognize that personal and social/political transformation are intertwined: one must change inwardly in order to realize more effective changes in the outside world. Or, one must change oneself first before changing others. Abu Arqoub gave an example on this note. She said that she often gets calls from parents of the students who are taking the programs with Abraham’s Vision. These parents react in different ways to how their children are changing. But one of the best examples of change is when a parent asks if Abraham’s Vision can design a program specifically for parents because they see that their children have been positively impacted. In these cases, the children are not pushing their own parents to change. Instead, the children are displaying a more tolerant attitude towards life, which just makes their parents want to learn more.
Abu Arqoub closed the session by reading to the Esalen group a brief excerpt from one of her former students and a Unity Program participant, Aaron Lerner:
What surprised me the most was that we were able to discuss sensitive issues without having to sacrifice any part of our identity. What were these sensitive issues that we came across? Well, many, but none more than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Did we solve the conflict in the Near East? No. But in the wake of Gaza [this past January], I was able to see the “ other’s” point of view, and have a respectable discussion that usually never takes place, while being in a comfortable setting. I never imagined that I would be able to talk about these things, and not be constantly harassed for identifying with Zionism. Yet it happened, and now my mind is more open to new possibilities. I hope to continue interfaith activities in college and beyond.
Kate McEntee and Benina Gould
Kate McEntee spoke on Monday afternoon to the Esalen conference participants. Thanks to support from Fetzer and Esalen, McEntee is working with Benina Gould (who attended the Esalen conference last year but was not available this time) to survey as many high school students as possible in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as in cities across the country. The survey asks questions to more clearly determine the role that religion plays in the daily lives of high school students, both at school and with their friends. At least two secular schools and two non- secular schools will be surveyed for this project.
McEntee said their pluralistic and interfaith project for high school students is based on the American Academy of Religion’s statement that “Religion plays a significant role in history and society. . .omission of facts about religion can give students the false impression that the religious life of humankind is insignificant or unimportant.” Since September 11th, acts of violence in the name of religion have dominated the media and developed a culture that is mainly exposed to the viewpoints of fundamentalists in varying countries around the world. Knowledge of the peaceful role of religion in the past and present promotes cross-cultural understanding essential to democracy and world peace. The commonly shared pro-social values of each Abrahamic faith will be part of the overall discussion in the classroom and with the teachers. These can be taught without adopting, sponsoring or denigrating any single religion.
McEntee noted that despite these reasons and because of our country’s long history with the separation of church and state, many teachers are reluctant to discuss religion in their schools. Even though it has recently been made constitutional in California that the pledge of allegiance can be recited in schools. At the same time youth are the prime target for people preaching hard line, us versus them theology, across all religious traditions.
While doing their initial investigation into this project, McEntee and Gould discovered a profound ignorance among high school educators and administrators about the role that religion plays in the everyday life of their students. There is a general lack of awareness and concern about whether students are thinking about or discussing religion and the role it may play in their everyday lives. Furthermore, there is a strongly held notion that interfaith work and pluralism are beyond the concerns of the average high school student. The fact that religion plays such a vital role in the world and its conflicts indicates that it should be addressed at the high school level. If religion is discussed, it is often relegated to after school clubs and not integrated with the regular curriculum.
McEntee and Gould will spend the next six months distributing the survey and collecting data, at which point they will write a paper summarizing their results, send individualized reports to each institution and offer resources and assistance to high schools that want to introduce interfaith work into their curriculum. They think their results should provide high school educators and administrators important data about their own students as well as those from other schools.
After McEntee described their project, the group brainstormed with her about how to make it as effective as possible. Rev. Jim Burklo said that her research was a great first step, which the AFR group can build on. Burklo added that it might be better to frame the idea as an “Inter-faith Club” instead of as an actual class. This will avoid the contentious issue of the separation of church and state that arises in mandatory educational settings. Furthermore, non-required clubs draw students with a strong interest, so perhaps this could be one way to implement inter-faith learning. Another idea that was discussed was special events. Even a two-hour evening meeting can be a great way to get inter-faith ideas in the door of high schools that are skeptical of religious education. Paul Chaffee suggested adding a question to the survey to address the commonly held distinction between spirituality and religion.
Lastly, Tamar Miller mentioned Facing History, an on-line educational program started in Massachusetts that has grown to serve international audiences. Facing History tackles troubling historical issues like slavery and has on-line learning modules. Miller said that one outcome of the AFR group could be to work with Facing History to develop adaptive inter-faith learning modules.
Reverend Jim Burklo
The Reverend Jim Burklo is the Associate Dean of Religious Life at USC in Los Angeles. Burklo gave an update to the group on his work over the past year. He oversees 85 different religious clubs on the USC campus, including three Buddhist clubs, an Egyptian Coptic club, and a Zoroastrian one. Burklo said that according to the religious scholar Diana Eck, who was involved in the Harvard Pluralism project, the city of Los Angeles is the most religiously diverse place on the planet. The campus of USC sits in the midst of that diversity and contributes to it. Burklo surveyed for the Esalen group a variety of the events that he helps coordinate. For example, the Pakistani rock star Salman Ahmed (who is the “Bono” of Pakistan) has performed at USC a number of times. During one of his performances, there was a magical inter-faith moment when the students of different faiths danced the “bangra” together. Burklo said there is also a speaker series on campus, which has drawn figures like the Dalai Lama and Jim Wallis. Other highlights include an inter-faith film series and a dorm-itory that has Muslims and Jews living together in the same building. All of these activities contribute to an atmosphere in which people from globally diverse backgrounds can recognize each other’s common humanity.
On Monday night Michael Murphy provided some colorful background on Esalen’s history and gave an overview of the vision that guides the Center for Theory and Research ’s conferences. Murphy began by describing the larger vision that inspired him to find Esalen in the early 1960s, which he often calls “evolutionary panentheism.” This means that the Divine is both transcendent to and immanent in our evolving universe. The word “transcendent” suggests that the Divine is Eternal and not impacted by the changing and developing forms of the world. But the word “immanent” suggests that the Divine is also engaged in the world in a tangible way—as it both suffers with incarnate existence and celebrates in the joys of the flesh. Murphy said that evolutionary panentheism is a spiritual and philosophical view, but, more broadly, it is an emerging world vision with a life affirming and ecological message. It regards the evolutionary adventure of this universe as an exploration of transcendent Spirit in the realm of incarnate life. Murphy said that all of CTR’s conferences contribute in some way to this broader vision.
Next, Murphy described some of the current conferences that CTR is engaged in. For example, Murphy said that the longest running conference is titled, “The Survival of Bodily Death,” and it looks at the empirical evidence that something like a human personality is capable of continuing even after the death of the body. This conference has met annually at Esalen for more than a decade, and it has spawned a research book on the topic, titled Irreducible Mind, written primarily by Ed Kelly. In response to Murphy’s talk, Rabbi Haim Beliak mentioned the work of Rabbi Allen S. Maller, who has tracked reports by Jews who claim to have memories of past lives as Jews. Some of those memories include death during the holocaust.
Midrash – Esalen Style
On Tuesday morning the group demonstrated through Midrash how “inter-faith” work draws on traditions of the past to instruct the future. This Hebrew word means creative interpretation through exploration, examination, and exfoliation of sacred scripture. It is an active process that enlivens the imagination, and thus it is effective for filling in the gaps of the terse Hebrew Bible narratives. One participant said that Midrash can be an expression of our spiritual experience, but it is not a reliable guide to historical fact. The works of the great mythologist Joseph Campbell sometimes have the quality of Midrash—a creative evocation of great archetypal stories for their deeper spiritual meaning.
Paul Chaffee began the group’s Midrash session by telling the story of Louis Ginzburg’s masterpiece, The Legends of the Jews, a seven-volume collection of oral legends collected from sources from approximately 400AD to 1500 AD. Turning to Abraham, Chaffee told snippets of two midrashic tales in Ginzburg, one about Abraham being hospitable to three strangers who show up on his doorway, the other about the near sacrifice of his son Isaac. Then, in some detail he recounted a story about the birth of Abraham. (In scripture we meet Abraham when he is an older man. The legend includes his mother’s escape from a terrifying pogrom of children only to have to leave her newborn in an empty cave, from whence angels fortunately handle the family responsibilities.) Chaffee observed how the legendary retelling of our most important stories can stimulate our own imaginations as we attend to the Abrahamic faiths. His reading kicked off a lively Midrash session among the participants.
Imam Shuaibe responded to Chaffee’s story by noting that as our minds grow and our societies evolve, we must strive to find the right interpretation of sacred texts to meet our own moment. In today’s rapidly globalizing world, the Abrahamic vision could be broadened even further to reconcile a number of dichotomies that trouble all religious faiths, such as:
* Eternal revelation vs. the ongoing evolution of humanity’s knowledge
* The call to mysticism and meditation vs. the need for practical activism
* The mysterious nature of reality vs. the scientific quest for certainty and laws
Shuaibe mentioned the Jungian concept of enantiodromia, which can be interpreted as the “tendency to become what you oppose.” Instead of turning into the very qualities we don’t like in our enemies, Shuaibe said we need to rise up to a more compassionate heart and more encompassing intellectual framework, which can heal the various religious conflicts informed by these dichotomies.
In response to calls for a more pluralistic Midrash, Shuaibe warned about the dangers of postmodern relativism. For Muslims, The Koran is a value-laden revelation that is not relative but eternally true. In The Koran Muslims find grounding in response to the pluralistic pastiche of our post-modern era. What we need is productive imagination in creative mix with eternal revelation. Midrash must always remain grounded in sacred texts.
Returning to some of the points he made on Monday morning, Shuaibe said the model of Abraham can satisfy both our yearning for authentic faith and our need for practicality and reason. According to Isalm, Abraham had his own intellectual faith challenges during his life, but through his mental growth he eventually became settled in his heart, which is called “ Qulb” in Arabic, meaning “the seat of affection and understanding.” Lastly, Shuaibe said that after The Koran, the life of Mohammed is the second most important source of guidance and wisdom in Islam. By following Mohammed’s example, Muslims can ultimately derive what is ethically best for the common good of society (called “ Ijtihaad”). Unfortunately, some ostensibly Isalmic countries are not following Mohammed’s example. Thus, it’s not Islam that needs to change, but the faithfulness and integrity of the practitioners who espouse to be true Muslims.
Jim Burklo followed Shuaibe by bringing up Carl Jung’s book Answer to Job as a particularly illuminating example of a Christian use of Midrash. In the wake of the holocaust and World War II, Jung sought to understand how God could allow such horrific events. Jung went back in scripture and, in a sense, psychoanalyzed the shadow side of God himself. In the Hebrew scriptures God is often upset and erratic. In response to Job’s persistent arguments, God was forced to grow up—to become more conscious and less unconscious. In order to fully embrace His journey of conscious awakening, God became an embodied human so that he would consciously know and experience our sufferings. Before the Christ event, God had been reckless and unconscious to human suffering. Thus, according to this radical Jungian version of Midrash, it was God (and not so much humanity) who needed to change and evolve.
Shuaibe disagreed with Jung’s view, so he invited the Esalen group to exchange Jung’s anthropomorphic image of God for a different view. Shuaibe said what is really happening is that people like Jung are projecting their incomplete reasoning abilities onto a personified image of “God.” Jung, and others like him, feel there is a contradiction in the nature of God, but this is really just a failure of human reasoning. To reconcile the problem of a “perfect God” who allows immense suffering to happen, Shuaibe suggested that we view human rationality as reckless and unconscious to that suffering. Thus, in contrast to Jung’s view, Shuaibe thinks that human conceptions of the Divine are what really need to change and evolve. We need to grow in our minds and our faith to understand the mystery of the Divine. In this way, Shuaibe reinforced one of his main points, which is that humanity needs to expand our capacity think creatively with various oppositions to manage them better.
Haim Beliak’s response to the Midrash exercise emphasized the moral vector. The best stories are the ones that evoke a deeper moral activation in the heart. Midrash is not just an exercise in creative imagination, it is really about awakening the moral imagination. On this note, Beliak said he does not give emphasis to the violent passages in Hebrew Scripture. As a contemporary Rabbi, Beliak works creatively with his tradition to evoke stories of justice and human rights.
Tamar Miller challenged the group to look squarely at the patriarchal messages in the early scriptures and the radical possibilities that the tradition of Midrash evokes. Miller mentioned a number of feminist scholars who offer a non-patriarchal reading and visioning of scriptures; that is, feminist Midrash. Miller also suggested that one way progressive groups like this one at Esalen can gain ground in conversation with those who keep images of the demonized Other alive is to engage in Midrash using sacred texts.
Mary Haddad echoed Miller by stating that patriarchy is collapsing today, and thus the new Midrash of the Abrahamic faiths must accord with that larger evolutionary imperative to develop a post-patriarchal view, or they will risk irrelevance.
Joseph Montville reinforced some of Haim Beliak’s comments. Montville said that “doing the right thing” is the key to Midrash. The Abrahamic Family Reunion will succeed when it helps spread the pro-social values shared by all three faiths. Midrash should help find the common moral core in the Abrahamic faiths.
Megan Martin emphasized that there is a real difference between spirituality and religion, and that many people in the up-and-coming generation ascribe to this distinction. Martin emphasized that the younger generation is going to engage in a new wave of Midrash that is more innovative and moves beyond current limitations.
Finally, Michael Murphy pointed to a larger evolutionary pattern for human culture. Murphy said that there are moments of striking novelty or emergence in the evolution of human religions, and that if this group could spend some time discriminating and highlighting those moments, it would serve as a productive way of identifying positive connections in the Abrahamic faiths. Murphy said that radical newness has come forth before in human history, and that our moment of globalization is demanding a similar “growth spurt” in consciousness.
On Tuesday afternoon Vanessa Brake updated the group on her work with Pace e Bene, a center for nonviolent education based in Oakland. See: www.paceebene.org. Brake described a variety of the programs that Pace e Bene is engaged in both in the United States and in foreign countries. Recently, some graduate students in theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley came to Pace e Bene for a training in nonviolence and social justice. Pace e Bene has also been doing advocacy and publicity to help prevent torture throughout the world. Overall, Brake said that the education and trainings in non-violence have proven to be very rewarding. Diverse groups have learned how to work through their differences without hurting each other.
Reverend Mary Haddad
The Reverend Mary Haddad is currently the rector at the All Saints’ Church in Beverley Hills, but on Tuesday afternoon she shared a positive inter-faith story that occurred while she was at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. As part of a week-long fundraising event for a non-violent organization called Tools for Peace, Grace Cathedral hosted some Tibetan Buddhist monks to come into one of their side chapels and draw sand mandalas, which were to be dissolved in a ceremony following the Sunday mass. With a few days preparation, the cathedral and the monks decided to incorporate the Buddhist ritual, tsok, within the actual Eucharist service, including some Buddhist prayers, which involved the spontaneous participation of the monks and the musician K.D. Lang. After the event was over, both sides remarked about how uplifting and healing it was. The musician K.D. Lang found the experience a resounding example of openness that showed what Christianity can and should be. It was a sign of hope that inter-faith healing can really work, even under spontaneous and improvised circumstances.
During the week, there were a few discussions about post-patriarchal forms of worship and the issue of how to re-balance masculine and feminine images of the Divine. On this note, Haddad shared a book of images by Janet McKensie with the group, titled, Holiness and the Feminine Spirit. In the late 1990s there was a contest to see which artist could portray the best image of “Jesus at 2000.” Among the thousands of entries, McKensie won top prize. Haddad contributed a written entry for the book called “On the Annunciation. ” What Haddad likes about McKensie’s art is that it has several multi-cultural images of Christian themes, incorporating Native American, Asian, and African-American images into the Christian story. Overall, Haddad thinks that the Abrahamic Family Reunion needs to look at the history of patriarchy as part of the process of bringing healing to these three faiths.
On Tuesday afternoon, Paul Chaffee described some of the exciting work going on at the Inter-faith Center at the Presidio in San Francisco. Please see: www.interfaith-presidio.org Since 1996, the Center has organized and facilitated dozens of interfaith programs, often working collaboratively. For example, an upcoming national interfaith conference is called “One Voice of Faith,” which will focus on eliminating poverty, one of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. A dozen different faith and interfaith groups are working together to launch the conference and influence legislation. Chaffee described the Lost and Endangered Religions Project, working at seven sites around the world to return religious sources (through copying them) currently sitting in European and American university libraries to religious groups which have lost them. An “Abrahamic Showcase” is producing five video profiles of Abrahamic projects that were born over the past 20 years in the Bay Area and now have an international influence. Abraham’s Vision is one of the fives projects and features our colleagues Aaron H. Tapper and Huda Abu Arqoub. Please see their website for more information about webcasts starting in May. Next, Chaffee told of the Interfaith Center’s video team, including Vanessa Brake. They attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona last December and webcast and recorded interviews with 40 interfaith leaders from around the world. Ten of the interviews are posted on the Center’s website, with more to come. After hearing Chaffee’s report on this Parliament, some in the Esalen group proposed having AFR represented at the next Parliament, in 2014. During the following discussion Chaffee shared an interfaith success story from Modesto, California. A number of citizens in a parent-teacher’s group adamantly resisted calls for increased tolerance for racial and religious diversity. But the community was able to rally around safety, the notion of “a safe place for all.” Out of that aim grew a multi-faith curriculum for their public schools. It was instituted after special faculty instruction, by teachers not allowed to self-identify religiously in the classroom, and within two years hate crimes in the city were reduced substantially.
Rabbi Haim Beliak
On Wednesday morning Rabbi Haim Beliak gave an overview of the current state of anti-Semitism in Poland and described some new efforts toward helping this country to more honestly face up to its history. Rabbi Beliak started with a bit of background on the relations between Jews and Catholics in Poland. Beliak said that although anti-Semitism goes back several centuries, there were a number of decades when Jews and Catholics lived in relative harmony in Poland. But this more positive moment in history too often gets drowned out by educational programs that focus myopically on World War II and the concentration camps. One of those programs is called “The March of the Living” www.motl.org, and Beliak said that it needs to expand its historical vision to tell the larger story of Jews in Poland. Today, many Jews view Poland as if it were just a cemetery of the past, but there are still many active Jewish communities living there. Current estimates of Jews living in Poland vary from 15,000 to 200,000.
Next, Beliak described some of the identity-psychology that informs Polish anti-Semitism. Because Poland has been a political pawn in many European territorial wars over the past several centuries, many Poles see themselves as having suffered tremendously at the hands of the more powerful Austrians, Prussians, and Russians. As a pre-dominantly Catholic country, they have taken on the self-image of “the Christ among the nations.” Unfortunately, this kind of historical victim psychology feeds into their anti-Semitism. But Beliak said that the Poles tend to forget that many Jews fought alongside Catholics during the various territorial wars over the years.
On a recent trip to Poland, Beliak did some inter-faith work with the Catholic-Jewish Consultation. Beliak used the film by James Carroll called Constantine’s Sword as an educational tool with a group of Poles that included some prominent Catholics—some of whom found the movie so challenging that they left while it was still in progress. But not everyone left, and Beliak did his best to have open discussions with those who remained afterward. Beliak said that bringing together Catholics and Jews in Poland for honest inter-faith healing and dialogue will be challenging but not impossible. Catholics and Jews still have divergent views about what happened before and during World War II. So, an honest look at history is necessary. Beliak said he realized that many Jews in Poland are still timid to speak out openly about the past. It’s not fully safe yet.
But on a positive note, Beliak said an archbishop in the city of Lublin saw Constantine’s Sword, and he wants to begin a healing conversation about Poland’s history.
Beliak said the work of looking at Poland’s history will be complicated, because there are still many misperceptions and lingering shadows. For example, he mentioned the historian Jan Gross’ controversial book The Neighbors, which describes how Poles–not Nazi Germans–were responsible for the killing of Jews in the village of Jedwabne.
Lastly, Rabbi Beliak said that most people do not know that two-thirds of American Jews are of Polish descent. Also, many Jews living in Israel today originally came from Poland. Thus, this forced emigration and displacement of Jews is one of the deeper historical causes of the conflict in Israel and Palestine. Beliak thinks that to really address some of the root causes of tension, we must focus on healing lingering historical wounds in Poland.
On Wednesday morning Joe Montville gave a presentation that looked at how Jews have internalized European racist attitudes and thus need to work on healing a rift within their community in Israel. Montville started by giving some historical background to the term “Oriental,” which has been used as a term of disdain by Western Europeans for several centuries. For example, when the Russians were trying to gain the respect of Western European countries like England and France, they were brushed off as “Orientals.” The great modernizing Czar, Peter the Great, tried to lift up Russia’s reputation by building his “window onto the West” in the city of St. Petersburg. But attempts like this failed to obtain the respect of Western Europeans, who only needed to use the derisive term “Oriental” to provoke the ire of the proud Russians.
Montville said that his reading of history shows that the Russian rage against the Western Europeans was building throughout the nineteenth century, and thus setting the stage for the Bolshevik revolution of the early twentieth century. For example, in the 1870s the great Russian novelist Dostoyevsky exemplified Russian pride as he spoke out against Western European derision.
It was out of this context of European racism that modern Zionism developed in the late nineteenth century. Jews from Poland, the Ukraine, and Russia started their emigration to Palestine at that time. Montville emphasized that they brought with them the Western European racist attitudes toward “Orientals.” Before Israel was founded as a country, Eastern European Jews had disdain for Jews from Arab and Muslim countries. But when they needed more people to help build up their country, Oriental or Mizrachi (Hebrew for “from the East”) Jews were brought to Israel from North Africa, Turkey, Iran, and other mid-East countries. Montville said that the derision for these so-called Oriental Jews was vividly apparent in the way they were sprayed with DDT when they got off the planes that brought them to their new homeland.
Thus, today, there is still a lingering racism within Israel and among different Jewish factions. It is ironic that some Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jews get along with Arabs but are disdainful of Arabic or Mizrachi/Sephardic Jews. Montville said that political psychology has shown repeatedly the need for respect of one’s cultural heritage. Yet, many Oriental Jews have been told that their past is worthless. In an effort to get respect from the elite Ashkenazi Jews in Israel, some Sephardic Jews display a vigorous anti-Arab stance, as if to say we are even more mean and rough than you are toward the enemy. Overall, Montville’s presentation brought attention to the need for healing and reconciliation among Jews—not just among the three Abrahamic faiths. Jews need to take an honest look at their own history of racist attitudes.
Books and Websites
A number of books and websites were mentioned during the conference:
From Joseph Montville
Sami Shalom Chetrit’s Intra-Jewish Conflict in Israel: White Jews, Black Jews
Shlomo Swirski’s Israel: The Oriental Majority
Nissim Rejwan’s The Jews of Iraq
Michael Stanislawsky’s Zionism and the Fin de Siecle
Rachel Shabi’s We Look Like the Enemy
From Paul Chaffee
Louis Ginzburg’s The Legends of the Jews
From Jim Burklo
www.patheos.org presents an inter-faith view of a variety of major religions, including paganism and shamanism.
http://sbnr.org/ SBNR website by Ian Lawton (Spiritual but not Religious)
From Tamar Miller
Abraham Heschel’s God in Search of Man
Lawrence Kushner’s The River of Light
From Haim Beliak
The March of the Living
James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword
Jan T. Gross’ The Neighbors
From Mary Haddad
Susan Perry’s Holiness and the Feminine Spirit: The Art of Janet McKenzie
Conclusion and Future Steps
Building upon some insights that sprang from a group reflection exercise called “Constellations,” the concluding session of the conference and the conversation that continued into the following week, produced a number of creative opportunities for the future of AFR.
In light its successes over the last four years beginning with five Fundamentalism workshops at Esalen, three annual TRACK TWO/CTR interfaith conferences, a broad network of theologians, practitioners, interfaith activist organizations and institutions of higher learning, peace builders, seminarians and academics, The Abrahamic Family Reunion Project (AFR) is a successful Abrahamic Family Network (AFN). The Network covers the Bay Area, LA, Greater Boston, Muslim and Jewish activists in Chicago, and Joseph Montville’s international relationships with networks of similar breadth.
In the Bay Area and Los Angeles, AFR’s relationships are solid and useful in terms of sharing timely information, teaching one another methodologies of practice from educational resources to strategic guidance. This is a direct result of the efforts of Dulce Murphy in close collaboration with Carol Miskel both of TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy based in San Francisco.
Without Dulce Murphy’s outreach to members of the Abrahamic Family Network (AFN), the depth of the collaborative work and the relationships that give birth to the work would not be strong or sustained. Some examples include: programmatic connections between Aaron Hahn Tapper and Huda Arqoub of Abraham’s Vision and Paul Chaffee of the San Francisco Interfaith Chapel at the Presidio; Benina Gould’s Peace and Relgion Education Project; and securing the successful the retraction of the islamophobic Obsession DVD that Tamar Miller and Haim Beliak would otherwise never have been able to effect had it not been for the set of trusting relationships that make up AFN, which are facilitated and nurtured by TRACK TWO.
Some of the particulars of the future activities of people in the Network are:
- Joseph Montville’s attendance at the April 2010 Conference in Italy where Nicolette Gaida and Marc Gopin will launch the Council of Dignity Forgiveness and Reconciliation. This, in the spirit of the contrition ceremony at Ara Pacis –Altar of Peace, in 2000 in Rome. The Council intends to use cases and build interventions around conflict areas like Israel and Palestine, using resources such as, An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics by Donald Shriver.
- AFN is considering gatherings outside of Esalen (perhaps in San Francisco) making it easier for people to attend. CTR and TRACK TWO will support a 3-day gathering at Esalen in March 2011. The goal is to strengthen AFN work – a kind of Midrash in Action, which would also continue to do the following, just to name a few:
- Grow and solidify networks in LA and Bay Area and reach out internationally, time and resources permitting (Led by Dulce Murphy and Carol Miskel)
- Incorporate AFR “healing history” theories into Seminary education in US, beginning in Boston, MA; and pursuing Muslim-Christian-Jewish campus “on the Hill ” in Newton MA. (Led by Joseph Montville)
- Support interfaith organizations with small grants and/or convening opportunities (Led by Dulce Murphy and Carol Miskel)
- Help Esalen development team secure funding for social entrepreneurial endeavors like Benina Gould’s Peace and Religion Education project; Tamar Miller’s PeaceBeat public imagination initiative, whose motto is “some good news, some of the time”; and Haim Beliak’s innovative Jewish-Polish Reconciliation Project.
Other ideas that were brought into the conversation were these:
- Invite cohorts of professional groups each year (e.g. journalists) for 5-day seminar. (Merrimack College’s Muslim Jewish Christian Center is in the Boston-area AFN. They are creating a program with curriculum and practice of professional cohort each year and could be replicated on West Coast).
- Build AFN in Russia, China, Middle East – perhaps this: “TRACK TWO and the Modern Silk Road”
- Create calendar of events for interfaith work to keep track of what everyone is doing during the year. “Mandating our connectivity” (Led by Faheem Shuaibe)
- Film a movie along the lines of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth regarding AFN (Led by Miriam Abu Sharkh and colleagues)
- Host an Esalen Interfaith Concert for “glamour, spectacle, outreach, and to use in the movie.” Concert would be a one-off event with a multiplier effect (Led by CTR and Esalen, resources and interest permitting)
- “Stay with Spirit with Track II Diplomacy and build capacity”
- Mobilize large AFN contingent at next J ST event in DC. (Led by Joseph Montville and Tamar Miller)
- Consider Social marketing and/or PeaceBeat column/radio show on AFN activities. (Led by Tamar Miller)
- Celebrate success of nonviolence – webinars with USF about Muslim movements (Led by Faheem Shuaibe and Jim Burklo).
- Introduce network of musicians for concert – Miriam Abu Sharkh
- Help organize a concert – Haim Beliak
- Create email group of LA/Bay Area leadership team – Paul Chaffee
- Firm up “AFN” 2010-2011 strategies with CTR – Tamar Miller
Huda Abu Arqoub is co-executive Director of Abraham’s Vision. She is one of twelve children, was born in Jerusalem and raised in Hebron. Her parents were both teachers and she chose to follow in their footsteps, obtaining her diploma in teaching English as a Second Language, a BA in Education and English Literature from Al-Quds Open university, and a Master ’s degree in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University, where she served as a Fulbright Scholar from 2004-06. Huda is active in grassroots Palestinian initiatives focusing on issues related to human rights and gender equality, and is a Palestinian focusing on issues related to human rights and gender equality, and is a member of several local Palestinian organizations that work on empowering women to be more active in building a healthy society. Through her activities she has worked with organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children International, United Religions Initiative (URI), and the Boston-based University of the Middle East Project (UME). Prior to joining Abraham’s Vision she worked as an educational consultant for the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education. Huda is also a Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Transformative Education.
Miriam Abu Sharkh is currently residing at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. She holds a grant by the National Science Foundation of Germany to study the evolvement of worldwide patterns of gender discrimination in the labor market with a special focus on Arab countries. This research builds on her previous work as a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law as well as her dissertation on “History and Results of Labor Standard Initiatives”(” Summa cum Laude”, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany – joint dissertation committee with Stanford University). It also draws on field studies in Gaza and the West Bank on the social movement dynamics of the first Palestinian uprising (Intifada). Before returning to the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, she was employed by the United Nations. As the People’s Security Coordinator (P4) at the United Nation’s specialized agency for work, the International Labour Organization (ILO, Geneva, Switzerland), she analyzed and managed large household surveys from Argentina to Sri Lanka.
She also worked for the Arab region for the Report on the World Social Situation for the United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York. Prior to that she was a consultant for the German national development agency (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, GTZ) in Germany. Abu Sharkh has written on the spread and effect of human rights related labor standards, as well as on welfare regimes, gender discrimination, child labor, social movements and work satisfaction. She has traveled extensively, both professionally and privately, loves to dive and sail and speaks English, German, Spanish and French as well as rudimentary Arabic.
Haim Dov Beliak is the Executive Director of HaMifgash: An On?Going Conversation Among Jewish Intellectuals, a 501c3. The most recent project of HaMifgash is called High Marks Justice Productions in honor of Wally and Suzy Marks. Their long time support of Jewish – Muslim reconciliation will be celebrated in a documentary on the Tunisian Jewish community in Djerba. The Djerba Jewish community dates to 576 B.C.E. and has developed a strong relationship with its Muslim neighbors especially the Hajira Muslims. Recently, www.JewsOnFirst.org wrote a rebuttal to “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” which owes its genesis to AFR’s Fall 2008 conference. The web site: www.JewsOnFirst.org larger purpose addresses the “Christianization” movement’s attempt to nullify the First Amendment of the Constitution. Together with Jane Hunter, Haim co –founded The Coalitions for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem (<http://www.stopmoskowitz.org> ) Beliak was born in a DP Camp in Munich, Germany and grew up in Mason City, Iowa and Phoenix, Arizona. He attended Phoenix College, Occidental College, Hebrew Union College, Hebrew University and The Claremeont Graduate University. In 1988-90 Beliak was as a Jerusalem Fellow in Jerusalem, Israel. He is a member of the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) and Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP).
Vanessa Gomez Brake works as research assistant on the Abrahamic Family Reunion. She is also office manager, speaker and workshop facilitator with Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service in Oakland, CA. Before moving to California, Vanessa worked at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy & Conflict Resolution in Arlington, Virginia. She holds a M.S. from the Institute for Conflict Analysis & Resolution at George Mason University, and bachelor degrees in psychology and religious studies from Arizona State University. In addition to her work, Vanessa volunteers with Soliya and the Interfaith Center at the Presidio.
Rev. Jim Burklo is the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He is an ordained United Church of Christ pastor with a Masters of Divinity from San Francisco Theological Seminary. He has served churches in Sausalito, San Mateo, and Palo Alto, and was the ecumenical Protestant campus minister at Stanford University. He was the organizer and director of the interfaith Urban Ministry of Palo Alto, which serves homeless and low income people. He writes about theologically and socially progressive Christianity (his books: OPEN CHRISTIANITY (2000) and BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS: Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians (2008); his blog, MUSINGS: www.tcpc.blogs.com/musings). Jim has recently taken a job at USC, so he will update his bio soon.
Paul Chaffee spent 13 years growing up in Asia, son of Presbyterian missionaries. That background provoked his own interfaith vocation, building bridges of respect and relationship between different spiritualities and religions. Howard Thurman was a mentor when Paul was a student at Pacific School of Religion and pastor at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in the seventies. For two years he was church coordinator at the San Francisco Council of Churches and has been a trustee of the San Francisco Interfaith Council since 1993. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, he has devoted more than 20 years to interfaith activities. In 1995 he became founding executive director of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio. He is actively involved in the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN), the United Religions Initiative (URI), and the Parliament of the Worlds Religions. In 2002 he chaired the planning team for the first URI-North America summit and in 2008 did the same for NAIN’s 20th anniversary conference in San Francisco. He has addressed, facilitated workshops, and collaborated with Buddhist, Brahma Kumari, Catholic, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Neo-Pagan, all manner of Protestant, Quaker, Seventh Day Adventist, Sikh, Shinto, Spiritualist, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, Zoroastrian, ecumenical, interfaith, peace & justice, and student groups here and abroad. He has taught interfaith studies at Dominican University of California and Pacific School of Religion. His books include Accountable Leadership (1997), which addresses law, finance, and ethics in faith communities, and Remembered Light (2007), the catalog for a collection of 26 new stained-glass and art objects utilizing shards of stained glass picked up in sanctuaries destroyed in World War II. Shared Wisdom (2004) is a handbook about generating and nurturing grassroots interfaith activities. It can be freely downloaded from “Interfaith Resources” at www.interfaith-presidio.org.
The Rev. Mary E. Haddad was born and raised in Canada. She earned her B.A. in Communications from the University of Windsor and worked for ten years in television for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Unexpectedly laid off, Mary subsequently worked as a publicist for the University of Windsor, owned and ran a French café, and, briefly, sold cars in Detroit. In 1992, she moved to California as the live?in verger at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. In 1997, Mary began studies at the General Theological Seminary and, upon graduation in 2000, became Associate Rector at St. Bartholomew’s Church. Mary visited Jerusalem for a ten?day seminar in 1994 and again for a conference on Christian Zionism in 2004. While at St. Bart’s, she was a Steering Committee member of Jerusalem 2000, a fund?raising campaign, and formed a grassroots Middle?East advocacy group called “Just Peace.” After three years as Canon Pastor at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, she returned to All Saints’ Church in Beverly Hills as Interim Rector, starting January 2010. She recently had a reflection published in artist Janet McKenzie’s book “Holiness and the Feminine Spirit.“
Oren Zeldin-Kroll was raised in Los Angeles and has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past six years. He received his BA in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Skidmore College and is currently a PhD student in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he recently received his MA. Engaging post-colonial, post-structural and feminist frameworks within Anthropology, Oren’s emphasis of study is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly alliance building activities between Jews and Palestinians. Paying particular attention to relations of power and issues of privilege, Oren seeks to understand structures and systems of oppression that lead to inequities and injustices that are prevalent in societies and cultures globally. When he is not studying or teaching, Oren likes to play basketball because he has refused to give up on his lifelong dream of playing for his beloved Los Angeles Lakers.
Megan Rose Martin was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received a BA in History from the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Master’s degree in Politics and International Relations, with a focus in the Middle East and North Africa, from New York University. Before joining Abraham ’s Vision, Megan worked with Forum 2000 in Prague, Czech Republic and KQED in San Francisco, where she organized events and managed donor relations. In addition, she worked on a democratic campaign in Long Island, New York, where she planned fundraising events, targeted donors, and organized volunteers. During her high school and university studies, Megan lived in the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, and Peru. She is interested in identity politics, languages, and cultural anthropology. She is an internationally published author and photographer and the Operations Associate for the Center for Transformative Education.
Kate McEntee is a research assistant to Benina Gould and is currently working with her on an interfaith youth initiative in the Bay Area. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies and International Relations from the University of Oregon. As an undergraduate she founded an interfaith dialogue group among Christian, Muslim and Jewish students called Talking to Abraham. She currently works for The Focal Point, a litigation consulting firm in Oakland, CA.
Tamar Miller consults to social change organizations with a focus on the contemporary Middle East. She was co?director of the New England regional office of The New Israel Fund; VP Education and one of three founders of an international company, American Higher Education, inc,; and Partner in Middle East Holdings, a business development firm based in Boston and Dubai. Tamar
was Director of Leadership Development and then Executive Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East at Harvard University. Earlier in her career, she directed social service programs in New York, Jerusalem and Cambridge, MA. for disturbed adolescents, pregnant and parenting addicts, and families of psychiatric patients. She also was a community organizer in Ethiopian, Yemenite, and Moroccan disenfranchised communities in Israel. Tamar holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Judaic Studies, Master of Social Work from Yeshiva University and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University. She currently is active on the board of directors of Parents Circle – Bereaved Family Forum, IPCRI (Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information), and the Alliance for Middle East Peace.
Carol Miskel began working with The Russian-American Center (now TRACK TWO) in 1997. She has helped coordinate conferences involving the former Republics of the USSR, and working with Esalen’s Center for Theory and Research helps coordinate projects co-sponsored with TRACK TWO. From 1982-1994 she was in the entertainment retail business, owning a compact disc and video store in San Francisco and three video rental stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. From 1979-1981 Miskel was the marketing director of Blume, Middag and Associates, a West Coast entertainment promotion and marketing company for music recording companies. After college and until 1977, she was in the music publishing business for shelter Records in Hollywood, California and published songs for artists such as Tom Petty, Leon Russell and Phoebe Snow.
Joseph Montville is director of the Beyond Fundamentalism seminars sponsored by the Esalen Center for Theory and Research and TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy. He also is director of Toward the Abrahamic Family Reunion, the Esalen program to promote Muslim-Christian-Jewish reconciliation. Montville also chairs the board of TRACK TWO. He is Senior Adviser on Interfaith Relations at the Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation, Washington National Cathedral, and a Distinguished Diplomat in Residence at American University. He is also Senior Fellow at and chair of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, George Mason University, and Senior Associate and adjunct professor at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at GMU. His expertise includes conflict resolution: East Central Europe, the Baltics, the Middle East, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Russia, Canada, and Latin America. Montville founded the preventive diplomacy program at Washington, DC’s Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1994 and directed it until 2003. Before that he spent 23 years as a diplomat with posts in the Middle East and North Africa. He also worked in the State Department’s Bureaus of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and Intelligence and Research, where he was chief of the Near East Division and director of the Office of Global Issues. Montville has held faculty appointments at the Harvard and University of Virginia Medical Schools for his work in political psychology. He defined the concept of “Track Two,” nonofficial diplomacy. Educated at Lehigh, Harvard, and Columbia Universities, Montville is the editor of Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies (Lexington Books, 1990) and editor (with Vamik Volkan and Demetrios Julius) of The Psychodynamics of International Relationships (Lexington Books, 1990 [vol. I], 1991 [vol. II
Dulce Murphy is a founder and was a director of the Esalen Institute Soviet American Exchange Program that began in 1980. Murphy then became the president and executive director of The Russian-American Center (TRAC) in San Francisco, a continuation of the same program. For the past twenty-eight years she has been on the cutting edge of non-governmental Russian-American relations. In the spring of 2004, The Russian-American Center changed its name to TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy, that expands its mandate as a non-profit organization to include other countries, teaming up with our Russian colleagues to that end. Track-two diplomacy involves non-governmental individuals and groups that aim to fill the moral and intellectual voids of official peacemaking leadership. TRACK TWO’s major goal is to re-humanize relations that are dysfunctional, working to make relationships better.
Michael Murphy, USA, is the co-founder and Chairman of Esalen Institute and the author of both fiction and non-fiction books that explore evidence for meta-normal capacities in human beings, including Golf in the Kingdom and The Future of the Body. During his forty-year involvement in the human potential movement, he and his work have been profiled in the New Yorker and featured in many magazines and journals worldwide. A graduate of Stanford University, he was one of the first Americans to live at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India in the mid 1950s. In the1980s, he helped start a successful Soviet-American Exchange Program, which was a premiere diplomacy vehicle for citizen-to-citizen Russian- American relations. In 1990, Boris Yeltsin’s first visit to America was initiated by Esalen. His other books include The Life We Are Given (co-authored with George Leonard), The Kingdom of Shivas Irons, Jacob Atabet, An End to Ordinary History, In the Zone: Transcendent Experience in Sports (co-authored with Rhea White), and The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation.
Imam Faheem Shuaibe is a highly respected and well-known national leader in the Muslim African American community in America. He is the local spiritual leader of Masjidul Waritheen in Oakland, California, and serves as the Director of its school system, the Mohammed Schools of Oakland–primary, elementary, middle, and high schools. Imam Shuaibe has been part of several distinguished delegations that have taken him around the globe on various educational, religious, interfaith, and peace missions. He has contributed his efforts to delegations in Rome, Italy, Sudan, Malaysia, Egypt, Caribbean, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Imam Shuaibe enjoys broad recognition receiving proclamations and the Keys to the City in several municipalities across the country, as well as the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity’s Notable Citizen Award. Faheem is currently working with an “A list” of intellectuals, professionals, religious leaders and career diplomats on the “Abraham Family Reunion Project,” a national interfaith project. The Institute for the Advance Study of Black Family Life and Culture has inducted Imam Shuaibe into the African American Intellectual Royal Family along with other well-known black scholars such as, Dr. Asa Hilliard and Iyanla Vanzant. Also, he is the President of New Africa Investment Group and Board Member of Islamic Networks Group (ING), an international interfaith education organization. Imam Shuaibe has been recognized by Black Business Exposition Ltd. as one of the 101+ Men Making A Difference. Imam Shuaibe’s lectures have been a source of inspiration to elementary and high school students across the country and their communities. He has been a vital source of information for large and small companies and organizations including The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco CA, AT&T, Chiron Corporation of Emeryville CA, Yale University’s School of Law, Howard University, University of California at Berkeley’s Department of Affirmative Action, Fordham University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, New York University, University of Washington in St. Louis, Xavier University, and Buffalo State College. Imam Shuaibe supports interfaith organizations wholeheartedly. His comments on contemporary issues are cited by the Muslim Journal, The Wall Street Journal, The Oakland Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, USA Today, and many others. Additionally, he is recognized as a consultant and has been utilized on documentary film projects for PBS.