dark coffee in small cup with saucer decorated with flowers on a wooden table top, looking from the top

A Young Christian Woman and a Young Muslim Woman Walk into a Cafe

dark coffee in small cup with saucer decorated with flowers on a wooden table top, looking from the topA young Christian woman and a young Muslim woman walk into a cafe…no, this isn’t the beginning of a joke. Interfaith jokes rarely include women – in fact even more serious images of interfaith relationships depict male priests, rabbis, imams, or monks gathering for a meal, a drink, or a football game. These images are often quite moving, serving as powerful reminders that God is at work through many religions and giving us glimpses of hope that we can get along. But such images are also not as accessible to me as a young clergywoman nor, I suspect, for the many people who see them as feel-good niceties that don’t have any real influence on how we understand God. I want to offer a new image for interfaith relationships from my own life, one anchored in the messiness of life and friendship and featuring young women:

It was one or two in the morning, so we were not in a cafe, but we’d had so much Bosnian coffee that day that we still couldn’t shut our eyes. We hadn’t seen each other in person for a few years so we had plenty to talk about: married life, new jobs, what it is like to be young women leaders in our communities. But, of course, we instead were talking about which Turkish soap opera actors are the cutest; at least, until Đana’s voice became serious: “Can I ask you something?” “Of course,” I responded, but I was still scrolling through overly dramatic stills of scenes from the soap operas we had been talking about. She asked, “What is this Trinity? God is one. How can God also be Jesus, a human?”

This was not the question I was expecting. As often as we spoke of God throughout the years of our friendship, I was wary of talking about theology and doctrine or even Jesus because I didn’t want to seem pushy, offend her, or hurt her. Đana is a Muslim who was targeted for genocide when she was a child by people claiming to share my faith in Christ. But now Đana was asking me (at a ridiculous time of day and while I was looking at pictures of Murat Yıldırım) to talk about my Christian faith. Her question challenged me to identify the difference such stories and doctrines made in my life, and why they matter. Read more

The July 2016 Conference of The Young Clergy Women Project, Boston University

The Stranger to You Shall be as the Native: A Rabbi’s Reflection on the TYCWP Conference

The July 2016 Conference of The Young Clergy Women Project, Boston University

The July 2016 Conference of The Young Clergy Women Project, Boston University

The summer before entering sixth grade, I joined a youth choir. On the first day, we received a folder filled with the music that we would be singing. I looked it over and immediately spotted a possible problem. That night at dinner, I raised it with my parents. I explained, “There’s a lot of Jesus in the music.” I didn’t how they would respond. My father is a rabbi, and I grew up in a committed Jewish home. Christian liturgical music was not entirely foreign to me, as my dad often did pulpit exchanges with other clergy in town. Still, I didn’t exactly know what to make of singing it myself.

My parents asked me how I felt about it, and I wasn’t sure. After much deliberation, my father finally said, “Some of the most important and beautiful music was written for Christian worship. Try it! You will learn something new, you will learn more about yourself, and you will be part of creating something beautiful.”

I was reminded of this conversation during my time at the annual conference of The Young Clergy Women Project in Boston this July. When I registered, I was simultaneously welcomed and forewarned. I was told that I should certainly feel comfortable joining the conference, and that this conference is Christian in orientation. I had a moment of hesitation, wondering what it would feel like to be the only rabbi in a predominantly Christian space. I decided to attend. I was initially attracted by the concept of “Leading with Presence” and was eager to learn with Susan Beaumont. While the learning was excellent, I was most deeply moved by being part of the community. Read more

kids with hands raised

Ask a Priest Day

kids with hands raisedHow do you know God is real?
Why is Jesus special?
Are there any Bible stories you don’t like or don’t believe in?
Why do we have to believe that Jesus is alive and the stories about him are true?

No, those weren’t questions posed by the Commission on Ministry during my ordination process. They weren’t topics raised by a search committee. They were asked by students in grades kindergarten through five at my parish’s day school. It was Ask a Priest Day in school chapel, and the kids pulled out all the tough topics for me.

Being the rector of a parish with a school generally means some involvement with the administrative side of the school: sitting on the school board, working closely with the head of school, coordinating facilities use, and so on. Some schools, including ours, also want the rector to take part in the spiritual life of the school community. In my case, that means leading school chapel once a week, presiding at monthly celebrations of the Eucharist, visiting religious studies classes, and being a supportive presence in children’s faith lives. I’ve baptized students and talked about death with them after the loss of a grandparent. Interacting with students was not something I expected to enjoy when I accepted this call, but it’s turned out to be one of my favorite parts of my job. The kids are engaged, curious, creative, profound, and often hilarious.

Silicon Valley is a challenging cultural location for a faith-based school. Read more