Interfaith work has been a part of the Academy for many years. In accordance with our pluralistic Jewish foundation, we also see other religious traditions as promoting the spiritual search of humanity for a deeper foundation for our common life, and we contribute from the Jewish tradition to that search.
The Academy is a member of Intersem, a collaboration of 6 seminaries – three Jewish, two Protestant, one Catholic — which supports a student-led overnight retreat every winter. With a faculty sponsor, a group of students plans a theme for the retreat, organizes prayer services representing the three different religions, and offers diverse workshops. Intersem is a project of the American Jewish Congress, one of the oldest interfaith organizations in the United States. The participating seminaries are Hebrew Union College, the Ziegler School of American Jewish University, Claremont School of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena), St. John’s Seminary (Camarillo), and AJRCA.
In 2010, the Academy entered into a groundbreaking collaborative initiative with Claremont School of Theology (CST) and the Islamic Center of Southern California with the goal of producing spiritual leaders for the twenty-first century who have respect for each other based on a real knowledge and understanding of one another. This led to cross-registration among the schools, and the incubation of new institutions including Bayan Claremont, a school for Muslim leaders, and Claremont Lincoln University, an online graduate school.
In 2011, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles awarded us a three-year Cutting Edge Grant for our innovation in this area. In particular, the grant supported interested members of the faculties of the three seminaries – AJRCA, CST, and Bayan – in learning together b’chevruta to deepen their mutual understanding. The funding also helped support lecture series and an Interreligious Conference in February 2014, entitled Transporting Our Traditions: The Heart of Humanity in Motion. (See website http://transportingourtraditions.org )
AJRCA students and faculty simulate a Jewish wedding with simcha at the beautiful Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens in Claremont, as part of the sharing about our traditions at the Interreligious Conference. Pictured: Cantor Seth Ettinger, Dr. Yolande Bloomstein, rabbinical students Catherine Mummert, Corinne Copnick and Cantor Eva Robbins, Cantor Sam Radwine, and MJS-Interfaith student Revital Goldreich.
The Academy’s endeavors to strengthen interfaith efforts in new ways, together with the collaborative spirit of our Christian and Muslim partners, have provided new class and shared learning opportunities for all those involved; AJRCA students have the opportunity to learn about other world religions, and we offer their students the opportunity to learn about Judaism. Students from University of the West (Buddhist) also have come to AJRCA. We expect these opportunities to expand in the future.
For specific study options in this area, see Options.