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Poetry and tikkun olam

Walking Makes the Talk

I knew joining Jewish Seminarians for Justice was a good idea. Already, the simple act of telling colleagues that the group exists and that I'm a part of it is putting me in touch with some amazing stuff. Like this project, spearheaded by Rabbi Karyn Berger, which seeks to spark conversation and transformatoin among Christian, Jewish, and Muslim seminarians:

Walking Makes the Talk is aimed toward Christian, Jewish and Islamic seminary students (or recent graduates). The project aims to send 30 students to Poland and Bosnia to visit Holocaust sites in an attempt to engage in interfaith dialogue about genocide, racial/religious hatred, and the dangers of inter-sectarian hate.  (We will also learn about the Armenian genocide in Turkey -- but because discussing the genocide is illegal in Turkey, we cannot visit Turkish sites as an official group.)

Physically experiencing the realities of genocide -- going to the place where a genocide occurred, talking to survivors or to those who navigate the aftermath -- can open new vistas of understanding between people. Participants will engage in a curriculum not only of discussion and text study, but also one which incorporates art, poetry, and music as means toward learning. Upon returning home, each participant will be required to commit to one public service project, in his or her own faith community, which will involve connection with another faith community.

Sounds powerful, and potentially transformative not only for the participants but for their communities as well. "If we want to prevent genocide, the way to do it is not after-the-fact, not once it's already in-progress," Berger says. "Ultimately, the way to prevent genocide is to learn to appreciate and love our differences. We need to change the way we understand each other."

Common experience creates a well-laid foundation for dialogue. Walking Makes the Talk offers the possibility of communication and understanding among up-and-coming leaders of various faiths... The program is designed to help us move our communities from discussion to action. It will help create a group of men and women who are committed to social change and aware of our interconnections, who recognize the power of individual and communal action to ensure the well-being of all people, regardless of sexuality, ethnicity, or religion.

Ready to apply for one of those thirty positions? Not so fast -- right now the project is just getting on its feet. In fact, it could use your help in getting underway. Reb Karyn is looking for people who want to be involved in any way -- spreading the word (psst -- feel free to share this blog post far and wide), fundraising or grant applications, organizational work, community outreach, marketing and PR, and so on. Once the program is ready to accept applicants for the overseas program, she'll be looking for people to help screen applicants. There's interest in making a documentary film about the project as it unfolds, so if you're interested in film-making you can lend a hand there. Basically, it sounds like any and all assistance is welcome.

I should note, too, that while the overseas program is designed especially for seminarians and theology students, the project which supports the overseas program is open to anyone. No matter where you are in the world, or what kind of work you do, if this project excites you, let Reb Karyn know -- she'd love to have you on board. She's reachable at her firstnamelastname at

She says: "Dream big; the door is open; we can create the future we want to see!" Kein yehi ratzon..

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