The Children of Abraham Initiative

An interfaith coalition of Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergy and lay leaders, whose purpose is to foster mutual understanding, respect and cooperation.

Congregation B'nai Israel
3600 Riverside Boulevard
Sacramento, CA 95818
916.446.4861
http://www.bnais.com/

Target Groups: Multi-Generational Social Action Program, Youth, Adults

The Children of Abraham Initiative is dedicated to respecting each other's differing religious views. By learning and sharing the wealth of knowledge from each tradition, it is a model for how diverse religious communities can build bridges of peaceful cooperation and friendship within the local community. The Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergy partner with the lay leadership to fashion programs of educational interest that encourage all participants to re-examine their own beliefs and to study those of the other faith groups.

The target population is members of the three faith traditions, in addition to other interested members of the greater Sacramento community.

B'nai Israel's Social Action Committee was earmarked as a logical lay-lead for the Children of Abraham Initiative because of the congregation's history of community outreach. Since the congregation was targeted by a hate crime in 1993, the community has been committed to building bonds of friendship and solidarity in the Sacramento community.

The Children of Abraham Sukkot event was hosted by B'nai Israel on October 3, 2004. Over one hundred fifty people from the interfaith community and the congregation itself gathered under the sukkah, embracing the theme of hospitality.

Estimated Budget

Rotating events between the various faith groups, expenses vary, depending on volunteer efforts. Event/dinner expenses may average from $500-$700.

Impact on the community and on the congregation

With each event, relationships are forged. Christians, Muslims and B'nai Israel congregants are enthusiastic about developing new friendships and increasing their knowledge of each other. The congregation's Social Action Committee membership has grown considerably as a result of new members being attracted to many of the congregation's community outreach efforts.

The Children of Abraham is an on-going project, with potential for many community activities. The Social Action Committee participates in "Rebuilding Together" each year. This is a well-organized, community-wide event to rehabilitate a particular Sacramento neighbourhood on one day in the spring.

The first Children of Abraham event took place on the second anniversary of 9/11 and was held at the Muslim SALAM Center. The evening began with the traditional Muslim call to prayer, held outside in the courtyard. The clergy's discussion centered on each faith's text regarding Abraham, our shared ancestor, followed by an extended social hour, including ethnic foods and conversation.

In May 2004, the Presbyterian Church hosted a discussion on "Abraham's Attempt to Sacrifice His Son." This was preceded by a wonderful dinner, with mixed, interfaith seating at  each table.

The clergy meets once a month to discuss topics and to work through areas of concern. There is a real dialogue, including disagreements on a variety of issues.

The congregation recognizes that misunderstandings and conflict have often characterized the relationships among Jews, Christians and Muslims. Reaching out to make contact with and to understand those who are different from us can be a daunting task, but it is crucial if we are to make peace a reality in the 21st century. We know that if we can develop trust and cooperation among us, we can become a positive model to a community and world that desperately needs to experience reconciliation and peace. The Jewish values of tikkun olam are being realized through the Children of Abraham Initiative.

The choice of Abraham as a vehicle for building interfaith relations is an interesting one. Abraham stands behind all three faiths as a direct link to God. Jews look to Abraham as a model of hospitality for strangers and travelers, which is a perfect fit for our congregation's initiative goals.

Congregation B'nai Israel are also forming alliances with other community groups, including those outside the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths. The Sukkot event included the Sikh, Baha'i and Mormon faith groups, and the religious school classes have on-going exchanges with various religious institutions. In a world where hatred is often taught, Congregation B'nai Israel are fostering peace and constructive human relations in the community's youth.