Sisterhood Blog

'I Love Daisy Khan!' the Seminary President Gushed

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share

After weeks of waiting for a chance to publicly express solidarity with the folks behind Park51 a friend and I cut out early from the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday.

Swag in hand, we met up with J Street’s contingent to attend the Liberty Walk for Religious Freedom, which started at St. Peter’s Church in Lower Manhattan and continued along the nearby streets, past various houses of worship and by the footprints of the former twin towers. It was a relief to be surrounded by hundreds of other people who wanted to publicly and vocally defend the Islamic cultural center, and the opening speeches — over an hour and a half worth of them — resulted in numerous moments of thunderous clapping and standing ovations for any line that strayed even close to applause-worthy; one could feel the pent up energy.

Some attendees in clerical collars and yarmulkes were close to tears, and throughout the packed pews one could almost sense palpable desperation, as though weeks of anti-“Ground Zero mosque” propaganda and overwrought media debates left audience members craving a little bit of generosity and kindness.

It was a long bill — the organizers did a good job getting people from a wide range of religions and denominations to speak. But not until the end did we hear a female voice (there had been another woman on the bill, but she couldn’t make it) and that’s the voice that stuck with me. Dr. Katharine Henderson, President of Auburn Theological Seminary, talked about how her parents had been extremely close to a Jewish couple, the Goldbergs, growing up — and she told a story about a Muslim friend of hers, a cleric, who had been helped out by a Christian neighbor during an impoverished childhood.

Her point was that people who have been brought close to those from other religions often learn to reject extremism because they can’t wrap their minds around these beloved friends being excluded from paradise or salvation or just being “the good guys.” Her stories brought the larger political and social issues discussed by others earlier in the program down to a human level. But what made this point even more touching was when she began to talk about Daisy Khan, one of the founders of Park51, and the wife of its imam. “I love Daisy Khan!” she said. This personal affirmation of affection and respect between two women of different religions poignantly underscored not just the fact that Park51 should be “tolerated,” but that it would be a welcome addition to the New York community.

The one thing that disappointed me about the rally was that we weren’t allowed to carry signs when we walked the streets, all fired up from the speakers. I saw a Hasidic guy talking to the cops as we walked by in silence, covered by umbrellas. “They’re for the mosque?” he asked. I imagine about half the onlookers saw a largely Jewish and Christian crowd and thought we were on the other team, and my PR-focused side was very disgruntled with that. But beyond the public message, hopefully the folks behind “Religious Freedom USA” were successful in sowing the seeds of a movement that will last beyond the Park51 controversy — a movement of people who believe in different conceptions of the divine (or in my case, none at all) and follow different rules, but nonetheless view each other warmly, and with welcome. It certainly felt that way on Sunday.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Katharine Henderson, Islamic Cultural Center, Ground Zero Mosque, Daisy Khan, Park51

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel:
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.