The Avodah Blog

Multifaith Community in the Countryside

Elise Goldin is an Evanstonian recently transplanted to the wonderful city of New York. Co-founder of Jewish Solidarity with Native American People (JSNAP) and a member of Young, Jewish, and Proud, Elise loves working on issues of social justice. She also enjoys dance parties. In the fall, Elise will be working as a tenant organizer as part of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.

This piece originally appeared at here.

Friday night, we sat around our dining room table for my last Shabbat at Stony Point, drumming to Bim Bom, and smelling the scent of fresh baked challah just out of the oven. Shabbats at the Community of Living Traditions are the best. Growing up, I had celebrated Shabbat with my family, but something about the people, the food, and the consistency of it made it really meaningful for me here. Each week, we invited guests to sit and share Shabbat with us as well as a way to get to know individuals in the community better and share Jewish traditions with people who have not experienced it before.

The Community of Living Traditions is a multi-faith community made up of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Quakers, and Buddhists located at Stony Point Center in Stony Point, NY. We are committed to living and learning from each other in the context of nonviolence from each of the faith traditions. As a community, we focus on four justice areas: Food Justice, Immigrant Rights, Justice for Incarcerated Persons, and Israel/Palestine Conflict Transformation. Every Monday, we got together for “Circle Time” and “Text Study” in which we engage each other in issues of nonviolence and faith. Circle time discussions have ranged from domestic violence in each of the traditions, to white converts to Islam.

In addition to the experience of living in a multi-faith context, I am coming away with the experience of living in a very multi-generational community. Having a meaningful conversation with a 60 year old and a 12 year old together is both hilarious and surprisingly wise, with each of us coming from such unique places – for instance, I learned firsthand that children these days are obsessed with Harry Potter and can carry on two hour conversations about which house at Hogwarts they would prefer to live in.

During my time with the Community of Living Traditions, I lived in the Shomer Shalom house, the Jewish house on campus. The house is named after Rabbi Lynn’s Shomer Shalom Network, a form of practice which understands and observes Judaism through a peace and nonviolence framework. The art, the books on the shelves, and Rabbi Lynn herself creates the atmosphere for grappling with issues of identity, culture, nonviolence. Nonviolence is not about sitting idly on the sidelines, Rabbi Lynn reinforces, but rather actively engaging in solidarity work and constantly re-imagining new possibilities for changing social structures.

As I leave CLT, I am coming away with memories of baking hundreds of cookies in the Stony Point kitchen (we are required to volunteer 20 hours a week to the center), helping out with the Jornaleros (day labor) project, and attending organizing meetings around Secure Communities and issues of Haitian deportations in the county. Living in a beautiful area surrounded by hiking, lakes, and wild animals wasn’t so bad, either (except for the allergies).

The Community of Living Traditions is now looking for more Jewish activist, organizers, and artists for the CLT residency program. We are hoping to develop our justice areas more broadly, create programming for each area, and use our resources as activists working in a multi-faith context. If you are interested in residency, please click here for more information.

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