Elijah Interfaith Institute
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|Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein|
The mission of the Elijah Interfaith Institute, encapsulated in its slogan “Sharing Wisdom, Fostering Peace,” is to foster unity in diversity, creating a harmonious world. Through its various activities, Elijah deepens understanding among religious leaders and scholars, and through them, spreads its vision to their various communities. In 2016, the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders articulated Elijah’s message: “The world’s great religions radiate wisdom that can heal the world. The spirit of Elijah is wisdom, inspiration, friendship and hope across religious traditions.”
Headquartered in Jerusalem, Elijah has offices and representatives in different countries, and holds its activities in multiple international settings.
The Elijah Board of World Religious LeadersEdit
The Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders brings together some of the world's most prominent religious figures from Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and the Religions of India in order to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas that leads to transformation within religions and their teachings. The Board numbers about 70 leaders from all faith traditions, and includes figures such as the Dalai Lama, Cardinal Schonborn, Mustafa Cerić, Mata Amritanandamayi and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. The Board represents an opportunity for these religious leaders to collectively address today's problems from within the resources of their own traditions. The Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders convenes in-person bi-annually, in different locations around the globe. It has met to date seven times, since its creation in Seville in 2003. Sub-groups have met on specific projects of common interest. Board members periodically respond jointly to issues of global concern which demand a united religious voice.
The Elijah Interfaith AcademyEdit
The Elijah Interfaith Academy provides the institutional structure to enable scholars and teachers of different traditions to share their teaching, engage in common projects, create intellectual resources and provide a powerful symbol of interfaith cooperation. The projects undertaken by the Academy deal with religion in contemporary society, and with the theoretical foundations of interfaith relations. A series of publications at Lexington Books features the research of the Interfaith Academy. Several research projects and publications have focused on theology of religions, considering the theological approaches of a given religion towards others as well of broader theoretical issues related to religious pluralism. One scholarly forum of the Elijah Interfaith Academy is devoted to the study of the mystical and spiritual life in an interreligious context. One of the contemporary research projects focuses on the study of outstanding religious individuals who have the potential of being inspiring across religious traditions. These are studied through a newly developed category - “Religious Genius”.
Elijah School for the Study of Wisdom in World Religions (including Summer Schools)Edit
Prior to the creation of the Board and Academy, Elijah was known as the Elijah School for the Study of Wisdom in World Religions. Not only did the school bring together twelve Jerusalem-based Jewish, Christian, and Muslim institutions within an academic consortium, but it also provided one of the few places in Israel where Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews met without prejudice. The educational activities continue, mainly through the annual summer school program, that has taken place in Jerusalem and elsewhere for more than two decades. An Elijah Summer School consists of academic study, which takes place not in isolation or in abstraction, but within an interfaith community of faculty and students. Interfaith dialogue forms the backbone of the school and allows for the integration of the study of religious traditions with exposure to their lived spirituality. A unique feature is the use of Bibliodrama as a creative technique to share sacred texts and the narratives of religious geniuses (see below – BASICS).
In 2017, the theme of the summer school will be “Sharing Wisdom: The Quest for One-Ness.”
Topics of Previous Elijah Interfaith Summer Schools include:
The Representation of God in Image, Icon, Word, and Thought
Conversion and Religious Identity
Holy Lives: Saints in World Religions
Sacred Space without Holy Land: Diaspora in World Religion
Authority in World Religions
Death and Dying
Holiness in World Religions: The Idea and the Crisis
The Power of Prayer
Religious Leadership: Ideals and Challenges
Elijah Institute has engaged in various campaigns and public outreach activities, by means of which its vision of interfaith harmony, carrying the authority of affiliated religious leaders, is communicated to broader audiences. Elijah’s quest to make its work a transformative force in society has taken the Institute from its scholarly theological roots to various forms of interfaith activism. Some examples include:
- Regular statements on global issues by the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders
- Statements by Jewish scholars of the Elijah Academy in solidarity with Christian and Muslim communities in Israel when they suffer discrimination or abuse.
- A highly-publicized prayer for peace with Pope Benedict and Israeli religious leaders of all faiths
- Interfaith summit on combating terrorism with Chief Rabbi Bakshi Doron during Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid’s visit to Israel
- “Restoring Friendship” crowdfunding campaign after the burning of the Tabgha Church
- Support for Elijah leaders around the world in their social activism projects
From Scholar to StreetEdit
Elijah’s aim is to take the work of its scholars and leaders to their various communities and to find creative ways of sharing wisdom and providing inspiration to religious and interreligious communities around the world.
Some of its initiatives in this direction have included:
- Community oriented educational training and activities in various US communities Praying Together in Jerusalem. On the last Thursday of every month, people of different faiths pray their evening prayers side-by-side. This growing movement is open to everyone. Elijah is a founding partner of the movement, which is an expression of our HOPE vision , and provides leadership and teaching.
- The summer school (see above)
- The Religious Genius project, helping communities find inspiration through the lives and teachings of uniquely gifted personalities from within their own traditions and from others.
- Interfaith facilitation training for religious teachers from across India
- Conducting Bibliodrama workshops in Jerusalem as part of our partnership in the BASICS program
Elijah’s activities have been carried out with awareness of taking its work from the domain of religious elites to the broadest public realm. Elijah is actively engaged in outreach through multiple platforms: its website, YouTube channel, active Facebook page and blogging activities of its staff and members of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders. The Elijah Interfaith Institute developed together with the Dutch advertising firm LEMZ the groundbreaking and record-breaking media project “Making Friends Across Religions” that brought to the man on the street a friendship call by the world’s most prominent faith leaders.
Projects Under DevelopmentEdit
Elijah’s accomplishments to date serve as the foundation for a comprehensive development plan, developed following the meeting of the Board of World Religious Leaders in Salt Lake City, November 2016. A list of projects under development is available.
Elijah’s development plans are framed by two central concepts:
A. Global Hope NetworkEdit
In a sense, Elijah has always been a global network. Elijah’s leaders have carried its message to their communities and used its resources for continuing educational activity. Various community outreach activities have been carried out, including study and training programs in multiple localities. Elijah’s leaders and scholars are presently developing initiatives that will take the work of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders and extend it from the global to the regional and local levels. These include meetings of regional religious leaders as well as online study and communications programs.
Elijah envisions that as an outgrowth of the regional gatherings and the online platform, a global community, a movement, will emerge based on sharing wisdom across religions and building a common global vision
B. HOPE CenterEdit
The Center of HOPE, an acronym for House of Prayer and Education, in Jerusalem, is the heart of the global vision. It is inspired by the prophecy of God’s house being a House of Prayer for all people. Presently, there is not a single institution in all of Jerusalem in which its religions share and come together. The HOPE Center would be Jerusalem's first center for education and spiritual life, owned and shared by all religions. As the Global Hope Network becomes a global phenomenon, the Center of Hope will be established as a physical facility in Jerusalem. The Center will provide a powerful symbol of the potential that Jerusalem has to be a city of unity, rather than one of division. The Center would involve members of all religions, East and West, in learning opportunities. It will include a museum on prayer and the spiritual life, and a pilgrimage center for inter-religious pilgrimage. It will have parallel prayer spaces for all major faith traditions to pray side by side and to share prayer experiences. It would model collaboration, education, service and prayer for peace in Jerusalem and worldwide. It would inspire people outside Jerusalem, worldwide, to both support the collaborative spiritual vision of Jerusalem and to seek to emulate it and to extend it to their various localities.
A. Interreligious ReflectionsEdit
Research projects of the Elijah Institute are published through a dedicated series at Lexington Books, titled “Interreligious Reflections”. The following titles have appeared to date:
More details can be found here.
B. Other publicationsEdit
Several projects devoted to theology of religions have also yielded publications of single authors or groups of scholars. (Details can be found here.)
Dov Schwartz, The Religious Genius of Rav Kook in Academic Studies Press, 2015
C. Teaching resourcesEdit
Many publications are available on the Elijah Institute’s website. These are based on conferences or are the work of Elijah’s scholars and think tanks. Resources for community interfaith engagement appear in the “Scholars’ Activity” section, under the heading “Courses.”
There are four courses in the category of “Mystical and Spiritual Life”, and courses entitled “Hostility to Hospitality”, “The Future of Religious Leadership”, “Sharing Wisdom: The Case of Forgiveness.” New courses will be released soon.
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