This coming Sunday, Father’s Day, is a day that reminds us of our responsibility as men to stand up and model for our children the right path to follow.
Next week, I am taking my first trip to Israel with my partner Rabbi Marc Schneier to promote Muslim and Jewish reconciliation. Through our leadership at The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), we have created and implemented successful and groundbreaking initiatives that have now joined together the Muslim and Jewish communities in 26 countries on 4 continents - including North America, Europe and Latin America.
For the past 5 years, FFEU's Weekend of Twinning has joined together imams and rabbis and their congregants in synagogues and mosques around the world. "Learning about the other" and sharing commonalities and eventually working together in their respective Muslim and Jewish communities is always the ultimate objective. Now is the time for this divine work to be done on the ground in Israel. Muslims and Jews must ready themselves for when peace comes to the region. Imams and rabbis in synagogues and mosques throughout the area must open their doors to greet their neighbors. After all, we are all brothers of the same patriarch Abraham and our family must learn to trust each other and live in peace and harmony.
We will be in Israel at the invitation of President Shimon Peres and will appear in a couple of plenary sessions at the Facing Tomorrow Presidential Conference in Jerusalem to talk about our work in helping to prepare Muslims and Jews for when peace occurs. The ultimate goal of FFEU’s programs is to spread the message of understanding and cooperation around the world.
Years of cross-cultural and interfaith work with Rabbi Schneier have shown me how powerful it is to reach across our fears and expectations in order to share our knowledge and our dreams. I am confident this visit will help encourage others of the value of promoting enhanced dialogue between Muslims and Jews.
Rabbi Schneier said that the trip will be an important step forward in educating the global audience of the importance of interreligious dialogue. “Russell is a passionate ambassador of hope who recognizes that global peace requires new and increasingly innovative approaches and we know that his voice of moderation will now be heard by people all over the world.” Those are kind words from a long-time friend.
It's our responsibility to teach our children mutual tolerance and respect. As we are taught from Proverbs 22:6, we should "train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. " We should also remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children." How else will our children know what to do if we don’t lead them down this path?
I will be on a plane on Father's Day heading to Israel. I will have sent my two beautiful daughters back to Los Angeles, after they have had spent a week with me at the beach. I was to have spent fourteen days with my children, including Father's Day, but when President Peres asked me to come to Israel with the chance to bring our programs there with his support, it was too great to pass up...so my daughters are in agreement that I had to go. I am always sad to leave my daughters, but I hope they understand that their daddy was just trying to make them proud.