Our week came to an amazing close on Friday. We started with a visit to
Bait-ul-Aafiyat Mosque – Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a dynamic, fast growing international revival movement within Islam. Founded in 1889, it spans over 206 countries with membership exceeding tens of millions. Its current headquarters are in the United Kingdom.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that the long-awaited Messiah came in the Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, of Qadian, India (1835-1908). The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that God sent Ahmad, like Jesus of Nazareth, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace. Members of this community recognize the teachings of various religious founders and saints, including Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Guru Nanak.
Further, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community strives to be an advocate for universal human rights and protections for religious and other minorities. It also champions the empowerment and education of women.
We entered the prayer spaces and participated in jumu’ah prayer. It is always beautiful and calming to hear the call to prayer sung and this was no exception. The Imam then gave a message that focused on the repeated mistakes of humanity in ignoring the universal messages of the great prophets who consistently taught love, compassion, and care for the vulnerable. He stated that religions sadly distort this message and often lead us down a path to violence, separation, and unjust actions.
After the prayers we went downstairs for a nice lunch and had some good conversations with members of the community. Then, the Imam, the president of the community, and some other leaders, led a Q&A session for the students.
After a quick stop in Chinatown for some bubble tea, we headed over to Congregation Rodeph Shalom for conversation with Rabbi Eli Freedman and then the Shabbat service.
Rodeph Shalom is a synagogue of the Reform tradition of Judaism. They strive to create profound connections by awakening the human spirit to the possibilities within and between. Rodeph’s communities does this through transformative study, prayer, and urban engagement.
- Welcome all who come to explore or deepen their connection to Judaism and God
- Find strength in our diversity of perspective, age, gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, family constellation, and socio-economic background
- Welcome interfaith families with open arms
- Rejoice with each other in times of joy and comfort each other in times of sadness
- Lift our voices in prayer, embracing the faithful and the skeptic
- Wrestle with the many faces of the Divine on our journeys of growth and spirituality
- Engage in the lifelong study of Torah, adding our voices to the generations of interpretation
- Repair the brokenness in our neighborhood and the world
- Celebrate our connection to Israel and Jews globally, providing a forum for learning and discussion
- Draw inspiration from the beauty of the musical, visual, and performing arts
- Cultivate a commitment to Jewish life and Jewish identity in the next generation
- Reflect, renew, and innovate in the spirit of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Eli shared with us a bit about Reform Judaism, Jewish identity and practice, and the history and practice of Rodeph Shalom.
Afterwards, we ventured back into the beautiful sanctuary for the Shabbat service, which included a lot of music sung in Hebrew, the bringing out of the Torah scroll, prayers, a message from Rabbi Eli, and community greetings.
There is no way to adequately express how fantastic it was to spend a week with this student group from Messiah College. As they headed back to the Harrisburg area, I sent them my encouragement and blessings to keep engaging others on their campus [and beyond], building more and more bridges of understanding and cooperation across lines of difference.
Real change can happen when we do this together. I’m grateful to be able to mentor students in this way and to be transformed myself by their curious, courageous and honest words and actions.