It has been a month.
A month since three Israeli teenagers and one Palestinian teenager were murdered.
Each day since then has seen an escalation in both the violence and the rhetoric with no end in sight. Tonight a number of us – Jews, Muslims, Christians, Others – will gather at a local college to publicly affirm our shared humanity, to express our deep sadness over the deaths of these four teenagers and all the others who have since been killed in the conflict and to pledge our commitment to do what we can to be peacemakers in our own communities and beyond. I will be there because it matters.
But, I have also been asked to speak briefly about an interfaith youth program we have begun.
Here is what I will say:
The Westchester Youth Alliance is a coalition of roughly 15 congregations – Christian. Jewish. Muslim. Unitarian – whose mission is to build a bridge between our faith communities and to provide high school students with a way to engage in dialogue and action based on common values. Given the season of the year or the particular event or the amount of homework students have over the course of a year somewhere between 30 and 50 high school students participate in our programs.
The dream for the Westchester Youth Alliance grew out an effort to counterbalance what might be the most divisive and, at times, the most destructive word in the English language.
The word all.
A – L – L.
Especially when it is used to affix labels and to maintain stereotypes as in:
All…you fill in the blank.
Our hope is that in the days and months and years to come the when the students who have participated in the Alliance are in a conversation and someone says…
They will have the knowledge and the courage and the wisdom to say:
“I know that is not true because I know Ibrahim and Abraham and Myriam and Sarah and John and Rebecca.”
And, when that happens we will have taken another step, however small, in the direction of peace.