Rabbis Victor and Nadya Gross have been forging a new path in building interfaith relations. For years their congregation, Pardes Levavot, has shared space with a Lutheran congregation, Shepherd of the Hills, exposing each congregation to the others’ traditions, texts, and rituals. This partnership resulted in an unexpected benefit. Members from both Pardes Levavot and Shepherd of the Hills found that the experience of their own religion was validated, enriched and enhanced through learning more about the others’ faith.
This March 3 – 14, 2013, Rabbi Victor and Rabbi Nadya Gross are providing a new locale for their interfaith work – Israel and the West Bank – and are inviting members of the Jewish Renewal community to accompany them and their interfaith co-leaders – respected Muslim clergyman, Imam Jihad Turk and The Reverend Canon Dr. Gwynne Guibord, founder of the Guibord Center – Religion Inside Out. In the manner of what Reb Zalman calls “Deep Ecumenism”, these spiritual leaders are making an interfaith pilgrimage to visit sites sacred to the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths and share in each others’ traditions. Pilgrims on this journey will celebrate an interfaith Shabbat in Jerusalem, share a Eucharist Mass at the historic Synagogue Church, break bread at the home of a local Palestinian, picnic in an ancient olive grove, and share in a Muslim prayer service. Sacred space and sacred ritual will be shared through the lens of all three great monotheistic faiths.
Rabbi Victor and Rabbi Nadya Gross have been influential teachers in the Jewish Renewal community for many years and have seen from their own experience how forward-thinking ideas can seed new, forward-thinking communities. They have witnessed firsthand, on a number of fronts, how educational centers with new paradigms can create a ripple effect of change that can benefit society – and they believe there is a great potential to create a ripple effect of change in the Middle East through supporting two pilot Waldorf schools in Israel and Waldorf early childhoood teacher training in the Palestinian educational community in the West Bank. Reb Victor and Reb Nadya hope to bring greater awareness and support to the pioneering Jewish/Arab Waldorf kindergarten, Ein Bustan and Tamrat El Zeitoun the first openly flourishing Arab Waldorf school in the world, by including visits to these communities in Israel. These two schools are co-sponsored by reGeneration, an American interfaith organization founded by psychotherapist, Shepha Schneirsohn Vainstein, LMFT, also a co-leader on this pilgrimage. Another very special component of this pilgrimage will include a visit to the West Bank to meet Palestinians in Jenin wanting this same education for their own children.
Developed as a peace education after World War I, there are now over 1,000 Waldorf schools in 60 countries in five continents around the world. An education that encourages critical thinking and creative problem solving, communist regimes forbade Waldorf schools until their overthrow in 1989. That same year, in Kibbutz Harduf, the first Waldorf class in Israel started with13 children. In the past 23 years Waldorf education has become so popular in Israel that now there is a Waldorf school in every major Jewish city in Israel educating a total of over 5,000 children.
Consistently each year approximately 60% or more graduates from Harduf Waldorf high school in Israel sign up to perform an extra year of volunteer community service to work with Jewish and Arab individuals who are homeless, drug addicted, or orphaned in comparison with 2% of overall Jewish high school graduates. Waldorf school graduates in Israel testify that the values they received in school had a major influence on their decision to do volunteer service benefitting the community.
In California Imam Jihad Turk’s wife teaches at a Waldorf school in Santa Monica where their children study. In Colorado Reb Victor and Reb Nadya’s own children have benefitted from this approach to education. They have come together with The Rev. Canon Gwynne Guibord in the belief that by supporting this education in Israeli and Palestinian communities, the interfaith community can help lay down an educational foundation for future leaders in the Middle East who will have new capacities for creative thinking and skills in cooperative problem solving to help to address the complex problems these children will be inheriting. Sharing this belief, Reb Zalman, the Rabbinic Chair of Aleph states “The greatest hope for peace, shalom, salaam, is the education of children on the basis of the spiritual depth in Waldorf Schools. Children who graduate from there become agents of reconciliation.”
Rabbi Victor and Rabbi Nadya Gross welcome those exploring Israel for the first time as well as experienced travelers on this inspiring interfaith pilgrimage. For more information about the pilgrimage click on The reGeneration Pilgrimage for Possibility or call Deborah Leshon 818-219-4698.