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Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, the religious leader and human rights advocate who died last month at age 90, was no stranger to the pernicious force of hate. He was a target during his decades of leadership against apartheid in South Africa. Still, in the face of brutal government oppression, he preached nonviolence. And when apartheid ended, he was a leading voice for reconciliation. Tutu took these often unpopular stands because he knew that hatred is as dehumanizing to the oppressors as it is to the oppressed. 

“When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate,” he said. "When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.”

With the observance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday this month, followed by Black History Month in February, it is fitting that ICJS starts the year by taking on timely social issues, looking at Confronting Religious Hate in our Neighborhoods this month, followed by a course and online panel on Economic Justice. We are reminded nearly every day of the injustices and inequality in our communities, as well as the forces that undermine democracy and oppose religious pluralism. It is more important than ever to identify and confront these issues as we come together to learn, dialogue and together build an an interreligious society where everyone can flourish.



Confronting Religious Hate in our Neighborhoods, with Baltimore Councilmember Zeke Cohen

January 18, 2022, 7:00 — 8:00 PM
Online Conversation

Last summer, when vandals painted swastikas on light poles in Fells Point, a neighborhood in his city council district, Zeke Cohen took to Facebook to denounce the act.

"As the grandson of Holocaust victims and survivors, this symbol hits hard. Generational trauma is a powerful force,” he wrote. 

While horrified by the hate crime, he was inspired by the community response: residents painted rainbow hearts to cover the vandalism.

"It was incredibly heartening to see our community unite to confront this hatred,” he said. “We cannot allow fear, prejudice, division, and hate to win out. Healing requires an honest confrontation with racism and a commitment to unity."

In this ICJS Online Event for January, Zeke will talk with ICJS Executive Director Heather Miller Rubens about confronting religious hate and how that is linked to promoting community healing from trauma.



We will draw on the expertise and the insights of ICJS scholars, as well as the on-the-ground experiences of members of the Justice Leaders Fellowship, as we take a month-long deep dive into the interreligious foundations of economic justice.


Economic Justice: Interreligious Reflections on Fairness and Dignity

Weekly on Thursdays until February 24, 2022
Starts February 3, 2022, 7:00 — 9:00 PM

The online course on Economic Justice: Interreligious Reflections on Fairness and Dignity will draw upon Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions to explore how discrepancies in wealth and status affect our religious communities and impact broader society. The four-week course will be taught by all four of our scholars:

  • Feb 3: Introduction & Orientation: Why Interreligious Learning is a Force for Good, with Heather Miller Rubens, Roman Catholic Scholar and Executive Director.
  • Feb 10: Jewish Reflections on Economic Justice, with Benjamin Sax, Jewish Scholar.
  • Feb 17:  Christian Reflections on Economic Justice, with Matthew Taylor, Protestant Scholar.
  • Feb 24:  Muslim Reflections on Economic Justice, with Zeyneb Sayilgan, Muslim Scholar.

The course is free, but you must register to receive a Zoom link for the sessions.


ICJS Online Event:

Walking the Justice Talk: How 4 Baltimore Leaders
Put Principles into Practice

Tuesday, February 22, 7:00  8:00 PM


The Monthly Online Event for February, Walking the Justice Talk: How 4 Baltimore Leaders Put Principles into Practice, will feature a panel of four Baltimore community leaders, all members of the 2021 ICJS Justice Leaders Fellowship, who will share their reflections on how their faith and the teachings of their religions ground their work to promote economic justice in the grass roots. The panel will be moderated by Fatimah Fanusie, ICJS Program Director, Justice Leaders. The panel includes: 

  • Farah Shakour Bridges, 4B4 Education Inc.
  • Leon F. Pinkett III, former Baltimore City Council Member and Executive Director of the Baltimore Arts Realty Corp. 
  • Jessica Klaitman, Let’s Thrive Baltimore
  • Miriam Avins, Baltimore City Commission on Sustainability and Avins Consulting


Coming in March: A Course on Martin Buber

ICJS Jewish Scholar Benjamin Sax will present a six-week course this spring on Martin Buber and the Life of Dialogue. Buber was a prominent 20th century Jewish philosopher, religious thinker, and political activist, best known for his 1923 book, I and Thou, and his philosophy of dialogue, which centers on the distinction between I-Thou and I-It relationships and modes of existence. The course will be offered on two different days: Mondays from 7:00 9:00 PM (Feb. 28 - April 4), via Zoom; and Tuesdays, 10:00 am Noon (March 1 - April 5), in person in the ICJS Library, Covid-19 restrictions permitting. More details are forthcoming in next month’s newsletter.


Congregational Leader Fellowship Interfaith Events

Deepening Congregational Connections in Times of Crisis

by John Rivera, ICJS Communications & Marketing Director

In the midst of a global pandemic, a national reckoning with racism, and increased political and religious polarization, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious and lay leaders from nine religious communities committed themselves to building interreligious bridges as the inaugural cohort of the ICJS Congregational Leaders Fellowship. Read more



The Power of Storytelling

By Emma Hawthorn, ICJS Congregational Leaders Fellow and a member of Chevrei Tzedek Congregation 

"One of the main lessons I learned from participating in the ICJS Congregational Leaders Fellowship is the power of stories to help grow a synagogue and interact with people I do not know. As Sam Keen once said, 'The telling of your stories is a revolutionary act.'" Read more


ICJS 2021 Annual Report


2021 Annual Report: A New Vision for an Interreligious Society

Check out our 2021 Annual Reportwhich is available for reading and download on our newly redesigned website, icjs.org. With the theme of A New Vision for an Interreligious Society, it draws on both our Vision, with a capital V, driven by our new Strategic Plan. But it also includes our vision, with a lower-case v, that finds light amid a year of darkness, from coping with the pandemic and experiencing the trauma of political and social polarization. There will always be a place for civil and open dialogue that builds on our common ground.



Uncivil Religion website

Uncivil Religion

The Uncivil Religion Project traces the thread of religion that wound throughout the day of January 6 and the uprising at the U.S. Capitol through a collection of digital media and a series of analytical essays. Paralleling the work of ICJS Protestant Scholar Matt Taylor on Christian Nationalism, Uncivil Religion documents the significant role that religious beliefs, symbols, and practices played, not just on January 6th itself, but also in the weeks leading up to the event, as well as forces continuing to this day. It is a collaborative project between the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. 


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