The Elijah Interfaith Institute: Wisdom Newsletter November

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Source: The Elijah Interfaith institute

  1. Jewish-Hindu Dialogue with Swami Sarvapriyananda
  2. Covenant and World Religions finalist of Sacks Book Prize
  3. Blog Posts Relating to Present Situation in Israel/Gaza
  4. Praying Together in Jerusalem: The Dignity of the Human Person

Hindu Dialogue with Swami Sarvapriyananda

On Sunday, November 12th, during the feast of Diwali, Rabbi Alon presented at the Vedanta Center in New York City. Hosted by an old-time friend, Swami Sarvapriyananda, the session was divided into two parts. During the first part Rabbi Alon offered his thoughts on why some Jews are drawn to Hinduism, his own personal encounters with Hinduism and what Hindus might receive from Jews. The second part was a transmutation of the regular format of the center “Ask the Swami”, which was turned into “Ask the Swami and the Rabbi”, allowing for some rich exchanges.

Swami Sarvapriyananda is one of Hinduism’s most effective present-day communicators. His videos are viewed by hundreds of thousands all over the world. And so it was with this program. By the time you will be reading this, the primary clip will have exceeded 100,000 views.

Comments, on the platform, and by direct communications, suggested great audience receptivity. Here is one comment, shared by Swamiji from a message he received:

The talk with Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein was amazing!

What piqued my interest was his approach to other religions. The idea that if I study another religion, I am doing something against my own religion was completely absent. His study of Vedanta was thorough, the way he was answering some vedantic questions showed that his study went beyond just academic or comparative interest. His comparison of Jewish and Hindu communities and how they can benefit from each other is practical, useful and very relevant today.

When we watch such an approach displayed by a Rabbi or priestly member of a religious denomination it is so inspirational and allows for a feeling of unity in religions without feeling guilty about it.

I have seen the same approach in our Ramkrishna Mission talks and literature. In your talks we see that you have studied other religions, you know the similarities and differences, all the while maintaining that all are valid practices and which one to practice depends on the practitioner's psyche and other factors.

Youtube is filled with religious speakers downright rejecting other religions or displaying a superficial sense of tolerance but always demonstrating "one upmanship". This talk was a much needed relief. I was watching this talk with a Christian and got the same feedback. Of course the Rabbi's humour was just the cherry on the cake!

Here are several excerpts from the event:

Highlights from Rabbi Alon’s talk

Highlights from Ask the Swami and the Rabbi

Full video of the session

Covenant and World Religions finalist of Sacks Book Prize

Another piece of good news, during these trying times, comes in the form recognition for the recently published Covenant and World Religions: Irving Greenberg, Jonathan Sacks and the Quest for Orthodox Pluralism (The Littman Library, 2023).

Following the passing of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, a book prize in his memory was established, at Yeshiva University. The Rabbi Sacks Book Prize is awarded annually to an author of a recently published or about to be published work of Jewish ideas deeply sourced in Jewish texts, with broad appeal within and beyond the Jewish community. Two finalists are chosen as well. It is very gratifying for Covenant and World Religions to have been nominated a finalists. As the notification states: the book was “praised by all of the judges as an extremely important contribution to contemporary Jewish thought and, specifically to the growing scholarship on the thought”. The analysis was considered balanced, highlighting strengths of as well as challenges to Rabbi Sacks’ thought. The constructive effort to advance the theological conversation forward was particularly appreciated.

The following audio interview on Covenant and World Religions in relation to the Sacks Prize addresses some of the key messages and contributions of this work.

The book is available with 30% reduction until the end of 2023.
  • For UK and Rest of World, order at using discount code ‘Covenant’
  • For USA and Canada, order at using discount code ‘ADISTA5’
  • For Israel, order at

Blog Posts Relating to Present Situation in Israel/Gaza

Both Peta and Alon have contributed to reflections on the war through their respective blogs on Times of Israel. As promised during our most recent weekly meeting, here are relevant links.

Written shortly after the breakout of war, this post considers what possible spiritual meaning the events of October 7th might have and how to approach them in line with classical Jewish approaches to theodicy.

Peta asks: After this war, will we learn to honor and value the contribution of women to the country's security, homefront, and recovery?

Alon considers the power of prayer during times of war, and how to make room for the other in our prayers.

The Friends Across Faiths Initiative and Praying Together in Jerusalem

are continuing our weekly on-line gatherings in a time of crisis.

The Dignity of the Human Person

Join us on Zoom on Thursday 30th November at 5:00 pm Jerusalem time for Archbishop Antje Jackelen, from Sweden, and Professor Timothy Gianotti, Author and Professor of Islamic Studies, in conversation with Peta Jones Pellach.

Followed by prayers by Christian, Muslim and Jewish participants.

All welcome.

  • Pacific time: 7 am
  • ET time: 10 am
  • London time: 3 pm
  • Central European time: 4 pm
  • Jerusalem time: 5 pm
  • India time: 8:30 pm

Followed by prayers by Christian, Muslim and Jewish participants.

  • Professor Timothy Gianotti
  • (Muslim, USA)
  • Archbishop Antje Jackelen(Christian, Sweden)

Moderated by:

  • Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein
  • Peta Pellach