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Knowing our Neighbors: Celebrating Religious Pluralism in America

Knowing our Neighbors: Celebrating Religious Pluralism in America

As a nation comprised of Jews, Christians, Humanists, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and many more, our country has one of, if not the most diverse landscape of faiths in the world. This diversity strengthens our nation as we live and work together, but as we celebrate this diversity, we must also challenge ourselves to push for more than just a tolerant diversity: how much do we actually know about our neighbors? Do we understand their basic traditions and deepest values?

Last week the Religious Action Center participated in a White House event, “Celebrating and Protecting America’s Tradition of Religious Pluralism.” The event included the launch of the Know Your Neighbor initiative, organized by a coalition of 15 diverse civil rights and faith-based organizations, including the Religious Action Center. Know Your Neighbor was created by National Sikh Campaign co-founder Gurwin Singh Ahuja, who was concerned about the challenges his community faces. Rooted in the belief that America’s strength comes from its diverse heritage, the Know Your Neighbor initiative seeks to foster a dialogue on the country’s religious diversity and promote understanding and respect of all people’s beliefs.

Melissa Rogers, Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships opened the event, reminding us that religious pluralism is not just about religious diversity, it is about engagement with one another. She further highlighted that we cannot just tolerate our differences, but rather must celebrate them to promote freedom, confidence and equity. As someone who was raised with this important value of tolerance, I appreciate that challenge that this initiative gives: to go beyond tolerance.

This is why I have taken the Know Your Neighbor pledge stating, “Our strength as a nation comes from the ability to hold true to our own faith and values while defending the religious freedom of our neighbors. I pledge to get to know my fellow Americans of all traditions and systems of belief and to share my own. Moreover, I will speak out against hatred and misinformation against others when I encounter it.”

As Rabbi Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center said in an earlier statement in response to anti-Muslim protests at mosques, “as a Jew whose people throughout history have experienced religious persecution and as an American whose country was founded by those seeking refuge from such persecution, we celebrate the right of people of all faiths to worship freely.”

Join us in celebrating our neighbors of all faiths by signing the Know Your Neighbor Pledge. Check out our new Muslim-Jewish dialogue guide to begin engaging your community in interfaith relations.  




Rachel Landman is the assistant director of 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in Byfield, MA, where she ran the inaugural summer Israel program, which focused on exploring Israel through the lens of science and technology. She holds a degree in biology from Hamilton College and served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She is an alumna of URJ Crane Lake Camp and grew up at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue in Brooklyn, NY. 

Rachel Landman

Published: 12/23/2015