Turkish coffee night, student film screening at Turkish Cultural Center Buffalo 5/28/11

Hosted by the Turkish Cultural Center Buffalo

Rob, Drorah, Nadia, Tevfik attended – great food, company, films, and (of course) delicious Turkish coffee.

Presentation by SUNY-Fredonia professors Ted Schwalbe PhD, Nefin Dinç (Nefin’s latest documentary theothertown.com).

SUNY-Fredonia project with 72 students in 6 smaller cities in Turkey (Antakya, Artvin, Edirne, Konya, Mardin, Sivas).

Sponsored by US State Department.

Summary of project and all films at www.filmturkey.net..

Goal to tell a story about social issues (e.g. democracy, women’s rights).

Students selected through interviews based on who came up with the most interesting ideas,  best stories to tell.Inflatalbe Games

Screenings in Diyarbakir, Istanbul, New York, Boston, Washington DC

Films from 5-20 minutes long

18 films created on essentially no budget, only 21 days of student training

Film – Love in One Breath (8 min)

About whirling dervishes & making of reed flute, analogy to human suffering and retribution/growth/maturity.

“… [best] word to describe a life fully lived is patiencethe reed flute [represents] love…” (Rumi references.)

Film – When the Plum Trees Bloom (6 min)

About 1980 coup-de-tat in Turkey

Love story, she asks ‘when will spring be for us?’. He sends a letter her, then is hung by his captors.

Symbolism of the plum tree blossoming

Film – 15 Steps Ahead (18 min)

Woman running for office (mayor/supervisor) in Sivas

Interviews with townspeople about her prospects; opinions about whether she should run for office or stay home; good or bad for the town; who would vote for her, who would never vote for her; who is  stronger and more responsible, men or women

6 local politicians died in helicopter crash during campaign

Male candidate wins

“I am a woman, I know what I can achieve…”

Gift giving after meal by host as payment for “renting your tooth” (I won a beautiful tie!)

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Notes from breakfast meeting with Rabbi Brad Hirschfield 5/26/11

Rabbi Hirschfield met for breakfast at the Temple Beth Zion Broder building with members of the Network of Religious Communities and Building Bridges in Western New York.  The following summarizes his comments during the discussion about interfaith work and its challenges. 

Hard work

“Need to get past eating hummus together and what feels good… need to get past affirming what we already believe

“The hard work is where in our lives we do things outside our comfort zone… figuring out how to work together when we disagree… how to tell someone they’re wrong without them leaving the room… if you don’t feel like giving up at times, you’re not doing the hard work… can’t ignore the hard problems without things ultimately blowing up… mediation is better than litigated divorce, but it’s rarely done because it’s hard… the most significant interfaith work is what goes on inside yourself…”

“Why do you do what you do?  Personal journey, passion, inherited, makes me feel good…  Imagine the person who is ‘the problem’ – they define why they do what they do in the exact same way.”

“Everyone needs a community to give strength by reaffirming your personal beliefs… but where do we go to disagree without savaging each other?”

“In the past, most interfaith encounters were a religious show and tell… started in Chicago on 9/11 [see 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions]…”

“Sometimes ‘working it out’ means going your separate way, sometimes it’s staying together forever…”

“Agreeing to disagree” is akin to “Besides what just happened, Mrs. Lincoln, what did you think of the play?”

“We call people ideologues when they don’t agree with us, insightful when they do…”

“It hurts the most when the community you identify with does things you don’t like…”

“We do this because it’s who we are, not because of what we expect in return… if it’s about reciprocity, you could never do anything with anyone who isn’t already where you are…”

“We all have an agenda… admit you have one… it has come to have a negative connotation… when it’s ours, it’s a ‘vision’ or ‘plan’… ”

“We assume wrongness is badness… MY vision may be YOUR vision of what’s wrong… it shouldn’t mean that I’m a bad person…”

“A serious Jewish principle is giving people the benefit of the doubt.”

Teaching, learning, doing

“You can’t be someone’s teacher unless you’re willing to be their student as well…”

“All positions are not equal… I’m not a relativist…”

“I live with the animating principle the God never made anyone so smart as to be right 100% of the time, nor so stupid to be 100% wrong…”

“A wise person is someone who can learn from every other human being… not everyone is a good teacher but everyone has something to teach…”

“Groundbreaking can be ‘they stood on the stage together and the world didn’t fall apart’…”

“Planting seeds can be scary because you don’t know what will come up… weed away, but what you think is a weed might be a gift…”

“Judaism can be everything to someone.  So can Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc…”

Sacred envy

“Wishing you could be like others, but deeply rooted that you’re not going there… true envy, not just admiration…”

“We love traditions we’re part of BECAUSE of certain things, and DESPITE certain things… I love my religious tradition (or significant other) not because others are stupid, ugly, or mean, but because I just love it…”

“Ask yourself ‘What is it I love the most about my faith community?  What am I most proud of?  What am I ashamed of?  What are you truly envious of in other faith communities?  What am I really angry about in other faith communities?’…”

“The claim of religious perfection only leads to strife and bloodshed…”

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Notes from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield talk 5/25/11

Book – You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right:  Finding Faith Without Fanaticism

“Jews should use the wisdom we possess for the betterment of the human race”

For God’s Sake – Brad’s Washington Post column

“We live in one of the most polarized times… Religion is killing more people now than any times since the Crusades… Will religion warm our home and cook our food, or will it burn down the house?… The more identified a country is with religion, the more likely it is to be at war…”

Two very different books were best-sellers at the same time:

God Delusion – Dawkins

Your Best Life Now – Joel Osteen

“Experiment – neither side can talk about the other disparagingly –> talk radio and cable tv would go silent”

“Problem when you focus on the other being broken, rather than focusing on yourself”

“The only way to solve the big picture is through one human relationship at a time”

Letter to Brad “Evangelical Christian open and close-minded Filipinos… Members of our church recommended your book… Feel funny writing you, a rabbi… Only Jew we knew growing up in the Phillipines was Jesus…”

Syracuse cab ride story – every square inch covered with Jesus love you stickers, bibles hanging from the door frame… Cabbie asked “What do you do?  What do you think of Jesus?”. Brad said “Don’t believe he’s God’s son, but people can learn a thing or two from him.”. Cabbie asked “How could you believe the second but not the first?”  Brad answered “I guess you don’t have to be wrong for me to be right.”Inflatable Games

Cabbie “Wife hasn’t been saved like me, pastor said she can’t be saved and I should find another wife…” Brad “You’ve been doubly blessed, saved by your wife and faith – I don’t see any reason you should give up on either.”

“At no point did either I or the cabbie back away from our beliefs… It’s not zero sum…”

Egypt story – Hamdi journalist of Islamic press wanted Brad to visit his parent’s home to show why he’s proud to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood… Extra security arranged… 8 Christians, 2 Muslims, and a Jew… Picked up Hamdi and Islamist politicians… Hamdi’s father ran to embrace Brad, saying in Arabic “American rabbi!”… On wall of room was picture of Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock, with smiling faces of founders of Hamas who killed one of Brad’s students… Poster said “Take heart Jerusalem, the end of your suffering is coming… Liberation is near…” “But nowhere in Egypt was I treated better…” Hate and anger were real, and so was the honesty, compassion and hospitality…

Story about parents – father didn’t want pork and shellfish, and also asked not to have Christmas tree in house after they got married… Proudly Jewish but not ritually… Brad asked for different dishes so he could keep kosher… Mother said no one ate on different plates in their house and had the home koshered…

“It is possible to have faith without fanaticism…”

“A fool would tell you not to feel bad about dashed hopes, but a fool would also tell you to stop trying…  ask yourself ‘Where can I go to get the strength to keep trying?’ “

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