The Words of the Ben-Zvi Family

Jerusalem Interfaith Forum: The Role and Responsibility of Religious Leaders

Hod Ben-Zvi
April 8, 2014

Netanya, Israel -- The Jerusalem Interfaith Forum for Understanding and Cooperation Among Religions marked its 12th meeting in the Netan-Ya Reform Jewish Synagogue in the city of Netanyah with a forum on "The Role and Responsibility of Religious and Spiritual Leaders" on April 8, 2014. The name of the city as well as the synagogue means "Given by God" in Hebrew.

Rabbi Edgar Nof and his community members welcomed the interfaith forum, which consisted of Christians, Muslims, Druze and Jewish religious leaders, academics and peace activists, with open and warm hearts. The rabbi played the guitar and all joined him in singing songs of brotherhood, heavenly freedom and love.

Afterwards we began discussing the responsibility of the spiritual leaders in a round table inspired by medical doctors' commitment and full responsibility to save people's lives regardless of their religion or nationality. The forum members set out to redefine the responsibility and the role of religious and spiritual leaders, challenging themselves in the process.

Several issues were brought up regarding the characteristics of a leader: being committed to serve others in modesty and humbleness, taking responsibility for the community and the society, and fostering a genuine concern for the future generations. As for religious community leaders, they should be driven by truth and religious values as well as have the courage to do the right thing.

Rabbi Nof called upon the Jewish people and its leaders to be highly sensitive to the suffering of the others: "Since we know the pain of being a minority – we must commit ourselves to prevent repeating the injustice we have received as well as the mistreatment of others." Rabbi Nof reminded the audience about the Jewish nation's enslavement in Egypt 3,000 years ago, as well as the suffering of the Jews and being victimized as a minority throughout the history.

A fruitful discussion developed, as the forum members expressed their desire to be active and to translate the discussions held in the forum's previous meetings to actual activity

The following were the main ideas and possible activities brought up during the discussion:

Like hospitals, where people turn to to receive physical treatment, we should strive to establish an institute which offers spiritual support to ease the sufferings and difficulties of the spirit.

Establish a "twin cities" tradition between Jewish and Arab cities; delegations from each city would visit the other city's communities, institutes and schools on a regular basis in order to develop mutual activities such as sports games.

Volunteer in support of students from other religions other than one's own.

Visit hospitals and support lonely people from religions other than one's own.

Develop an educational curriculum for inter-religious cooperation to be taught at schools.

Create an internet website where we can communicate with each other easily, and also respond and condemn wrongful actions, or alternatively, support and encourage good ones. 

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