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Interfaith Zoom Seminar Series

Revelation in a Time of Plague

A 4-Week Zoom Series of Reflections from Spiritual Leaders of the Abrahamic Family of Faith

4 Wednesdays, April 22 – May 13, 2020

Hosted by MAS Boston and CMM


Jewish Speaker Bios:

  • Rabbi Or Rose is the founding Director of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership of Hebrew College. Before assuming this position in 2016, he worked in various administrative and teaching capacities at Hebrew College for over a decade, including serving as a founding faculty member and Associate Dean of the Rabbinical School. Rabbi Rose was also one of the creators of CIRCLE, The Center for Interreligious & Community Leadership Education, cosponsored by Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological School (2007 – 2017). In addition to his work at Hebrew College, Rabbi Rose has taught for the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, The Wexner Graduate Fellowship, Me’ah, and in a variety of other academic, religious, and civic contexts throughout North America and in Israel. He is the co-editor of Speaking Torah: Spiritual Teachings from Around the Maggid’s Table (Jewish Lights), and the award-winning anthology, My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation (Orbis). His most recent publication is the anthology, Words To Live By: Sacred Sources for Interreligious Engagement (Orbis 2018). In 2009 – 2010, he was selected as a member of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s inaugural North American Scholar’s Circle. In 2014, Northeastern University honored him for his interreligious educational efforts.
  • Rabbi Allison Berry is honored to serve as co-senior rabbi of Temple Shalom of Newton and work in partnership with Rabbi Abrasley as they lead the clergy and staff team of the congregation. Rabbi Berry joined the Temple Shalom community in 2011 as the Associate Rabbi and Director of the Grades K-6 SHACHARIT Education program. She is deeply committed to the fact that Temple Shalom is a diverse community, welcoming people of traditional and non-traditional backgrounds, interfaith families, Jewish-by-choice, non-Jewish partners, members of the LGBTQ community, people with physical, social or cognitive challenges and those searching for meaning.
  • Rabbi Eric Gurvis has served congregations in New York City, Mississippi and New Jersey. He has long been deeply involved in youth activities and Jewish camps, interfaith and social justice work, as well as Israel programming and education. He is a past-president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, a past chairperson of the Newton Interfaith Clergy Council, and has served on the board of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. Rabbi Gurvis is currently a member of the Newton Human Rights Commission. He is also a member of the faculty for the Hebrew College Open Circle Jewish Learning program, which provides adult learning opportunities in communities throughout the Greater Boston area. Rabbi Gurvis is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, with a BA in sociology and Judaic studies, and was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.
  • Rabbi Claudia Kreiman is the rabbi at Temple Beth Zion, and has been with their community since 2007. She grew up in Santiago, Chile, where her father, Rabbi Angel Kreiman-Brill was the Chief Rabbi of Chile. Her experience growing up under the repression of the Chilean dictatorship inspired her work for social justice from a young age, where she went forth with a commitment to Jewish education on a multitude of endeavors. She is married to Rabbi Ebn Leader, who is on the faculty of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. They have two daughters, Alma and Ariel.

Christian Speaker Bios:

  • Rev. Rodney L. Petersen, PhD is executive director of The Lord’s Day Alliance of the U.S. (LDAUSA) and Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries (CMM), greater Boston area’s oldest interfaith social justice network. He is formerly executive director of the Boston Theological Institute, taught in the member schools and overseas, and was co-founder of the Religion and Conflict Transformation program. He serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Petersen is author or co-editor of numerous publications, including, Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Religion, Public Policy and Conflict Transformation (Templeton Foundation Press, 2001); Overcoming Violence (BTI, 2010); Formation for Life: Peacemaking and Twenty – First Century Discipleship (Wipf and Stock, 2013); general editor of George H. Williams, History of Religion at Harvard, 3 volumes (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014); and Religion and Public Policy: Human Rights, Conflict, and Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
  • Rev. Max Olmstead, PhD came to The Dover Church in 2009, with his wife and two boys. A Massachusetts native and lifelong member of the United Church of Christ, Max brings a passion for the experience of God to ministry. Whether in worship, or teaching yoga and meditation, chatting over coffee, or sharing stories of our life with God, Max seeks to help people find words for their faith, making God accessible, practical, applicable, and personal. When he was a professor of Old Norse, Vikings and Swedish language, Max lived in Colorado, California, Seattle, WA, Iceland and Sweden. When not doing things with his family or around the church, Max loves to fly fish for trout and striped bass, practice and teach yoga, kayak/canoe, run, hike and bike in the woods, and keep bees.
  • Br. Kevin C. Peterson is founder and executive director of The New Democracy Coalition, a non-partisan and non-profit organization that focuses on civic engagement in Massachusetts and across the United States. The New Democracy Coalition is in residence at the College for Public and Community Service at University of Massachusetts, Boston. Mr. Peterson studied philosophy and politics at Boston University and is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for Collaborative Leadership at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. He has also served as a senior researcher at the William Monroe Trotter Institute in Boston. Mr. Peterson has served as a Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Urban Studies Department in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has lectured across the U.S. and in the continent of Africa, including the countries of Mali, Senegal and Morocco.
  • The Rev. Kevin Baxter is a pastor at the Church on the Hill (Swedenborgian) on Beacon Hill. After graduating from Pacific School of Religion and the Swedenborgian House of Studies in 2004, he was ordained as a minister of the Gospel by the Church of The New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian). He has served a variety of posts that include college chaplain, camp director, pastor, and denominational administrative positions. He currently enrolled in Boston University’s School of Theology Transformational Leadership Doctorate of Ministry program. He and his wife have three children and reside in metro-west Boston.

Muslim Speaker Bios:

  • Carl Sharif El-Tobgui, PhD is Associate Professor of Arabic & Islamic Studies and Director of the Arabic Language Program in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department at Brandeis University. Professor El-Tobgui’s scholarly expertise lies in the field of Islamic thought, with a special concentration on theology, law, and jurisprudence. He has recently published his first book, Ibn Taymiyya on Reason and Revelation, which examines a 10-volume treatise on the relationship between reason and scripture. In addition to his expertise in Islamic thought, Professor El-Tobgui has a deep love of language in general and of Classical Arabic in particular and has enjoyed for many years exploring the intricacies of Arabic grammar, as well as classical literature and poetry with his students.
  • Imam Khalil Abdur-Rashid, PhD is the first full-time University Muslim Chaplain at Harvard University, Instructor of Muslim Studies at Harvard Divinity School, and Public Policy Lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He serves all Muslim students at Harvard, supervises the staff of the Harvard University Office of the Chaplain and also serves on the Board of Religious, Spiritual and Ethical Life at Harvard.
  • Mohamed Lazzouni, PhD holds his PhD in Physics from Oxford University (England), a Master in Physics from London University (England), and a BSc. in Material Science. His academic career led him to teach at different universities and colleges in Europe and the United States. He held appointments as an Assistant Professor of EE at Oxford University, and an Assistant Professor of Physics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He is currently the CTO of Viisage Technology in Billerica, MA. Dr. Lazzouni is a Visiting Professor at the Jesuit Institute of Boston College. He was trained in Classical Islam in Traditional Schools in North Africa, and active at the Oxford Center of Islamic Studies. The focus of his training was on Islamic Jurisprudence, Islamic Philosophy, and the History of Spiritual Islam. He was also trained in Philosophy of Science at Oxford University.
  • Aaron (Harun) Spevack, PhD is a professor of Islamic Studies. His teaching specialties include topics in Islamic studies—law, theology, Sufism, history, and culture. His research interests include Islamic intellectual history (law, theology, Sufism, logic) especially with regard to the 13th to 19th century legal and theological commentary traditions, as well as contemporary issues in Islam. He has taught at Harvard University’s Summer School (2010-present), Colgate University (2012-present), Loyola University New Orleans (2010-2012), and was a post-doctoral teaching and research fellow in the Humanities at Hamilton College (2008-2010).

This 4-week program brings together congregations from the three Abrahamic traditions (Muslim, Christian and Jewish) and other interested persons. 12 faith community leaders (a representative three at each of 4 gatherings), will each offer advice to the community regarding some of the questions below (and others as they see fit), and then to open it for the congregants to reflect, ask questions, etc. The questions might be the following:

  1. What is the role of God in this pandemic?
  2. What is the role of spirituality and religion?
  3. What is the role of people of faith?
  4. How can we connect more with our spiritual being and God so that we can help the world overcome this crisis?
  5. What do we tell our children when they ask why is God doing this?
  6. And many others

This program started on Wednesday, April 22, and ends on Wednesday, May 13, running for an hour each consecutive Wednesday from 5:30-6:30 in the evenings.

This period of time is sacred to each of these three traditions and symbolic of fresh transcendent revelation. For Muslims it falls during the sacred month of Ramadan, April 23 – May 23, and calls to mind the year 610 A.D. when it is believed that the angel Gabriel appeared to Prophet Muhammad and revealed to him the Quran, the Islamic holy book. For Christians this period begins after Easter (W: April 12; E: April 19) and ends with Pentecost (W: May 31; E: June 7), 50 days after Easter Sunday which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and disciples of Jesus while they were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Weeks. Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) commemorates the revelation of the Torah to Moses and the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, May 28-30.

This program represents a chance for faith leaders to provide more guidance to our congregations regarding the role of spirituality and faith in these trying times, and to leverage this as an opportunity to anchor the faithful to God, in order to come closer to Him, to pray more, and to find answers to big questions that are often posed during a crisis. If faith leaders unite on this purpose we might collectively find an ecumenical and interfaith role in the whole of our societies toward a closer relationship with God or the mystically transcendent, which would benefit everyone.

For more information, please contact Hossam Al-Jabri of MAS Boston (Hossam.aljabri@gmail.com) or Rodney Petersen of CMM (617-331-1747; rlp@coopmet.org)