Cultivating Respect Through Relationships

By: Katherine Cienkus

March 3, 2016

For all of my passion to defend and respect the faith traditions and beliefs of everyone, I had somehow never attended a service for a faith tradition outside of Christianity. It took a personal relationship to get me there. My first Shabbat was an exciting experience and a chance for me channel Ignatius’ calling to be “open to growth.” The power of the individual in changing perspectives and forging solidarity are the most profound realizations I had after Shabbat.

I had a wonderful guide in my friend Jake, who welcomed me to the service and gave me tidbits of knowledge, such as the fact that the Georgetown branch of Judaism was considered Reconstructivist, facing east during prayers was symbolic of facing Israel, and that Hebrew is read from left to right. Apart from the novel nature of many aspects of the service, I felt the most comfortable and at home while singing prayers. A connection of music with prayer has been strong in my life, and I loved the similarity of the engaging nature of Hebrew prayers.

Among it all, I could not help but appreciate and marvel at how I could still participate in Shabbat in a constructive and meaningful way, despite not being Jewish. It struck me that once you understand one faith, you come to be able to appreciate and empathize with others, due to the similar places spirituality grows from. Therefore, what I really gathered was the value of relationships in fostering respect for other cultures and faiths. For Jake and I, it happened without either of our notice: the goal of intercultural and interfaith relationship.

My relationship with Jake allowed for a fuller and richer understanding of the service and facilitated the comfort level necessary for me to branch out. These one-on-one moments are truly where dialogue and progress is made, and seeing this on the micro-level was very insightful, especially when looking forward at policy decisions and implementing the work of faith-based organizations all over the world. People really want to show and teach you their traditions because they are important and vulnerable aspects to share. Through Jake, I was able to strengthen my relationship and attain the mutual respect necessary for constructive dialogue.

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Cultivating Respect Through Relationships