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It was a chilly January Saturday in Colleyville, Texas, and the community of Congregation Beth Israel was gathered for its morning Shabbat service. The peace and serenity of their prayer was violated by an armed intruder who held the rabbi and four congregants hostage for hours, until they were able to escape. 

Tragically, antisemitism is all too common. This most recent attack on an American synagogue prompted both condemnation of the violent act  as well as expressions of solidarity and support for the Jewish community. ICJS issued a statement on the incident. It also pointed to the urgency of the work of interreligious dialogue and efforts to build an interreligous society, particularly in an environment of increasing polarization, where expressions of religious bias and bigotry are becoming more common, and in some circles, even acceptable. It seemed fortuitous that just days after the Colleyville incident, we had scheduled a conversation on Combating Religious Hate in our Neighborhoods with Baltimore City Council Member Zeke Cohen. 

This month, we take on another urgent social issue: economic justice and interreligious responses to inequality. Our scholars will lead a four-week course looking at economic justice from Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Protestant perspectives, while community leaders who participated in our Justice Leaders Fellowship will reflect on how they incorporate interreligious principles of fairness and dignity into their work. Both offerings will be available online, so please register and join the conversation.




Economic Justice: Interreligious Reflections on Fairness and Dignity

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


A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that economic inequality, whether measured through the gaps in income or wealth between richer and poorer households, continues to widen.

It is in this context that our ICJS scholars ask: Is this the economy that our religious traditions support? When is a society economically just, and how can our religious texts and traditions help us to envision and achieve such a goal?

Starting Thursday, Feb. 3 and continuing for the next three weeks, we will be wrestling with these questions from Jewish, Muslim, and Christian perspectives in an online course on Economic Justice: Interreligious Reflections on Fairness and Dignity. The four-week course will be taught by all four ICJS scholars.

  • Feb 3: Introduction & Orientation: Why Interreligious Learning is a Force for Good, with Heather Miller Rubens, Executive Director and Roman Catholic Scholar.
    • Face-to-Face or Shoulder-to-Shoulder Dialogue?
    • Dorothy Day & The Deserving/Undeserving Poor
  • 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, 7:008:00 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


Martin Buber and the Life of Dialogue

A six-week course with Benjamin Sax, Ph.D., ICJS Jewish Scholar

Martin Buber is one the most influential thinkers of the  20th century. This course will explore his notion of dialogue as expressed in his writings, ranging from comparative mysticism to biblical commentary, existentialism to poetry, philosophy to cultural Zionism, and psychology to diplomacy. Buber artfully guided his readers beyond the conventional confines of east/west and religious/non-religious through the myriad sources and influences that comprise the experiences, themes, and aspirations of his 1923 magnum opus, I and Thou.

In addition to his classic work, the course will look at his works on Hasidism, mysticism, and exegesis, as well as his ruminations on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Participants will be invited to think about how Buber’s views on dialogue can inform not only their own perspective, but also how religious and political leaders can work together toward achieving this complicated, yet also simple dialogical orientation to the “Thou.” The course will also raise the question of how the life of dialogue both disorients and enriches our lives. 

The course will be offered on two different days: Mondays from 7:009:00 PM (Feb. 28April 4), via Zoom; and Tuesdays, 10:00 amNoon (March 1April 5), in person in the ICJS Library, Covid-19 restrictions permitting. 

Readings will be made available one week in advance of each session. It is recommended, but not required, that participants purchase a copy of Buber’s I and Thou.

Note: Attendees in the ICJS library will be asked to show proof of vaccination and wear masks.



Zeyneb Sayilgan, ICJS Muslim Scholar Participates in Lehrhaus Institute Panel

Quo Vadis: Where Do We Go After the Pandemic?

Rainbow over Baltimore

How can we go about healing the medical, social and political scars wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic? ICJS Muslim Scholar Zeyneb Sayilgan brought the perspective of the Qur’an to the an online seminar, Quo Vadis? A Discussion on Looking Ahead, presented by the Lehrhaus Institute, a gathering of international scholars who examine global issues from religious perspectives. The session is part of the Lehrhaus Institute’s Kaufmann Virtual Seminar: Topographies of Exile–Horizons of Hope and Healing.

Dr. Sayilgan noted that the text of the Qur’an poses the question, “Where are you going?” And it leaves the answer to human persons. “There’s always an opportunity and this pandemic has provided humankind with an opportunity for either growth or decline. It is the gift of free will how we are going to make these decisions,” she said.

“I think Quo Vadis, this question, is asked of every human being. Every human being has to make a choice here: a choice of being constructive and in favor of moral, intellectual, and spiritual development of individuals and our society; or to say nothing has to change, we want to go to the normal—whether it was good and healthy and normal is another question—and we basically decline in my eyes,” she said.



Our Hopes for Baltimore in the New Year

Several past and present participants in our ICJS Justice Leaders Fellowship offered their visions of hope for Baltimore in 2022.


After Colleyville, community renews focus on security

The article quotes Melissa Zieve, ICJS’ Director of Operations: “How we best serve both the Jewish and the Muslim community, and all religious communities, is by learning more about each other, and by knowing each other.”





Rabbi Rory Katz, Chevrei Tzedek Congregation

Rabbi Michael Hess Webber, Columbia Jewish Congregation

Following in her footsteps

In this Baltimore Jewish Times article, women rabbis in the Baltimore area reflect on the 50th anniversary of the ordination of the first woman rabbi in American history. Among the writers are two alumni of our ICJS Fellowship programs: Rabbi Rory Katz (Congregational Leaders Fellowship) and Mikey Hess Webber (Justice Leaders Fellowship).


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