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Bridging Differences To Build Relationships

September 29, 2010

Bridging Differences To Build Relationships:

The religious world is full of contradictions. Most religions preach love of one’s neighbor, but it is so easy to see that the reality of this in the real world is far from so. Every day we see news in our neighborhood, in our cities or from around the world displaying conflicts based on religious differences.

Difficulties in accepting the faith of others, however, not only appears in the news or in the political arena. We face people of all faiths and belief systems every day in our lives. I know a number of people who are members of two religious communities with different denominations. One such person was speaking to me about a member of her other clergy team. Since I am new in this community, I asked if she would make an introduction between the two of us. She was pleased at my willingness to reach out.

There is a Dominican college just around the corner, and two of their professors have reached out to me to come and teach in their different syllabi as an effort to bring an understanding of Judaism into their faith curricula. I was touched by the offer and look forward to these classes.

Every day we face people who are different than we are. They may be of a different faith or different from us in some other way. Each day we have the opportunity to build relationships with those who express different beliefs and ideas, or to discard or devalue them. I have found an unending richness in embracing the outstretched arm of the other, and looking to see where we can build commonality.

Look around at the people you interface with daily. Notice how they are both similar and different from you. Take the initiative to connect with them in a way that bridges your differences. Let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear you respond  to our blog about your experiences.

Robin Damsky

Robin Damsky is the rabbi of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Illinois, and co-author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. David K. permalink
    September 29, 2010 4:52 am

    Like the tale of the hermit who was the sole resident of a deserted island for many decades.

    When he was discovered, he proudly showed his visitors all the things he had built for himself- including TWO different houses of worship.

    Why two? One in which to worship… and another, at which you could not pay him to worship!!

    Many of us are “hermits” while surrounded by many other persons and interacting with them daily in a most perfunctory and mechanical manner.

    Be well and take care.

    • October 4, 2010 8:29 pm

      Hi David,

      I have heard this story before, told a bit differently. But as I read your story I found myself asking the question: Why would one invest his or her time in what one wants to avoid? There never seems to be enough time to pursue the things we love, let alone to waste precious time on things that we reject. I had a teacher that told me that every time we focus on obstacles to our goals, whether out of fear or concern, we are investing in what she called “ungoal.” Every moment we devote to that which does not further our love and light takes us away from it.

      Here’s to building light and achieving our goals, through focusing on love.


      • David K. permalink
        October 5, 2010 2:26 pm

        I would be surprised if any clergy (but especially rabbis) were not aware of some version of the tale!

        I am reminded of an article a few years ago about the small Jewish community that remains in Damascus- less than 60 individuals- but a need to maintain two synagogues whose members often do not cooperate with each other.

  2. September 29, 2010 1:34 pm

    Thank you for your article. I can so relate.

    I am a Christian. What I look for in people is not their religious affiliations, but the love that exudes from them. I smile at a person, not because he/she is like me, but because I see a spirit I can connect with. I meet the most amazing people, because I choose to love and learn beyond me.

    I must admit that I find it disturbing when one of my pastors focuses on converting people from other religions. In my world, one is not necessarily better than the other. As long as you are good and loving, I want to meet you exactly where you are.

    • September 29, 2010 1:55 pm

      Dawn, thanks so much for your lovely comment and positive outlook. I’m so glad you are sharing your thoughts and insights with us.

      If there are ways we can partner, please let us know.


    • October 4, 2010 8:24 pm

      Hi Dawn,

      Sometimes the congregant teaches the clergy! There is so much wisdom in every path, and each person is unique. I often wonder what our world would look like if we began to see each person with love. Could you imagine the transformation that would take place on our planet? We would need to come up with new ways to use our time. Maybe there would be a lot more music and painting going on.

      Blessings to you,

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