In honor of Mother’s day, on Thursday, May 15th, Peace Islands Institute CT held Abraham’s Table at Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ in New Haven, CT.
The speakers of the event were Rabbi Leah Cohen, Director of Slifka Center at Yale, Mrs. Annette Streets, of Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ and Mrs. Nuray Yurt, Director of Peace Islands Institute New Jersey.
In the beginning of her speech, Rabbi Cohen stated that she intended to highlight the differences rather than the commonalities between the three religions: “women in the Torah play an oppositional role.” In the Torah, according to Rabbi Cohen, it is obvious that women were in some ways submissive and were not people of authority. However, as seen in the stories of Puah and Shifra, women were challenging authority for a cause, which was righteous. We again see the same concept in stories of the daughters of Zelophehad. Rabbi Cohen concluded her speech with a message: “the Jewish tradition honors, as an expression of faith, the challenging of authority for a higher cause.”
Mrs. Streets initially provided a brief introduction to the basic tenets of Christian belief, which also helped the audience to understand the background of Jesus’ arrival, and the people living in his time. Subsequently, showing the audience a painting of first-century Christian church fathers, she reiterated the fact that, as an African American woman born in the 20th century, she would have almost nothing common with them but their beliefs in God and Jesus. Following the example of Esther and many other women of faith in the Bible, according to Mrs. Streets, women have many ways to show their devotion. Women may function as pastors or take part in the core leadership in the churches.
Mrs. Yurt also started her speech with a basic tenet of Islam: every individual is responsible to learn the fundamentals of religion. Therefore, men and women are encouraged to be educated, as the first revelation to the Prophet is the command: “Read.” Furthermore, Mrs. Yurt gave the example of Mary the Saint, one of the women who have an individual chapter in the Qur’an named after her. In Saint Mary’s time, women were denied to have any sort of education. However, she broke the boundaries and attended the religious studies in her time. Mrs. Yurt, then, gave examples from Muhammad’s wives: Khadijah- a successful businesswoman in her time, who also proposed to Muhammad for marriage herself; Aishe- a prominent scholar figure in Islam both during the Prophet’s time and after his death. Besides, Mrs. Yurt brought an interesting fact to our attention: in the Quran, men and women are always acknowledged separately in the same sentence, introducing respect for women during a century in which women previously had no rights.
This pleasant evening concluded following the Q&A session and individual conversations made over the desserts.