Rabbi’ng Shoulders with Alternative Faiths
The ninth annual open Peace Lecture was held last week in the St David Lecture Theatre. Israeli Rabbi Adi Cohen, who is part of the Wellington Progressive Jewish Congregation, delivered the lecture, entitled “Words, Concepts, Deeds. Peace as a way of living”.
The lecture was organised by the Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group and the Otago Tertiary Chaplaincy. Rabbi Cohen, who is the only progressive Rabbi in New Zealand, stressed throughout his lecture the importance of interfaith communication. Cohen challenged the audience to consider how we can overcome our religious differences and what kind of dialogue needs to occur.
While the lecture was delivered from a Jewish perspective, the main themes of peace and communication worked to transcend religious boundaries. Cohen noted that in some cases people could be “very, very different. But we are all human”. This concept was displayed during the question time that concluded the lecture, when a Palestinian woman asked the Rabbi how interfaith discourse could be used to help the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Cohen replied that it would be very hard to start such discussions in the midst of this conflict, but pointed to the fact that both he and the audience member were here in New Zealand, and suggested that maybe it would be this neutral ground that would allow for the beginning of interfaith communication.
The Rabbi also stressed that people often tended to regard their spiritual view as “religious” while those held be others were “superstition”. However, Rabbi Cohen explained that it is only when people “try to listen” rather than “wait for their turn to reply” that they gain a crucial understanding that all religions are valid.
Rabbi Cohen’s humbly told the sizeable audience: “I don’t want people to remember me as a Rabbi. I want to be remembered as a father, a husband, a human being”.