News

Being Open To Others In Order To Fight Prejudices

Recollection 1 - Jewish Religion

Speaking about her Jewish religion, Mrs. Sharon Helfer shared the knowledge gained by her own quest for meaning and her experiences. This first meeting, of a series of conferences oriented towards interreligious dialogue took place on November 22nd at Residence Marie-Rose Durocher. To expand on her presentation of explaining what the Jewish faith says about God and how to practice this religion according to various Jewish denominations, Ms. Helfer elaborated on the following three points: Who is God in the Jewish faith? What is the Jewish faith? And how to know and serve God?

Who is God in the Jewish faith?

The Jewish God has no physical appearance, he has no body even though the Torah speaks of the hand and the heart of God. He is the Creator of the universe. He is immanent in his creation. He is an intimate presence. The feminine aspect of God is called "Shekinah".

This scholar presents the Jewish God as a "God of the Covenant. A God who accompanies. All that He is, is beyond us. His uniqueness is proclaimed by the prayer that begins with "Hear, O Israel, God is One" (Dt 6:4-9).

This God of the Covenant is very well represented by the exodus from Egypt which constitutes a central moment in the Jewish faith. It is at this time that God proclaims "From now on if you keep my commandments, I will be your God and you will be my people."

What is Jewish faith?

The speaker presented a picture of some world religions to paint a fair picture of the situation. Percentage wise, Christians occupy the first place with 33.6% of believers, followed by Muslims with 20.28%. The Jewish religion is 0.23%, far below the population that declares itself atheist at 2.35%. This is why we say that "Jews are a proud minority."

The respect and love of the Torah is reflected in the profession of the scribe and the wearing of phylacteries and the possession of the mezuzah (an elongated case that contains two texts of the Law). They are also manifested by the feast of Simchat Torah where we celebrate the Torah by carrying the scroll and dancing on the 9th day of Sukkot.

The speaker presented a picture of some world religions to paint a fair picture of the situation. Percentage wise, Christians occupy the first place with 33.6% of believers, followed by Muslims with 20.28%. The Jewish religion is 0.23%, far below the population that declares itself atheist at 2.35%. This is why we say that "Jews are a proud minority."

The respect and love of the Torah is reflected in the profession of the scribe and the wearing of phylacteries and the possession of the mezuzah (an elongated case that contains two texts of the Law). They are also manifested by the feast of Simchat Torah where we celebrate the Torah by carrying the scroll and dancing on the 9th day of Sukkot.

Over time, the Jewish faith has evolved under the influence of women even if they still have difficulty finding their place. During her talk, Sharon presented a wheel that represents the liturgical celebrations of the year, celebrating the certain areas: agricultural, historical and family. While describing each of them she noted that the Passover is the most celebrated holiday. It also highlights the existence of a division between Jews. Those who come from Eastern Europe speak the Yiddish language (mixture of languages and Hebrew).  Those from Spain, the Sephardic branch, under Arab influence, speak Ladino.

How to know God?

To this important question, Sharon has a simple and clear answer. "If we love God, we want to know him, to study his creation, hence respect and love for the Torah."

A member of the Reformed Jews, Sharon met the Imam of the Quebec Mosque. She observed that by learning to know each other better, we "improve our knowledge of God.”  Her research led her to a greater knowledge and understanding of humans.

Continuing her explanation of the distinctions in Judaism, Sharon spoke of the Kabbalah, a mystical path of Judaism, emphasizing the existence of three branches. She then mentions the three key books that are: the book of Creation (3rd or 4th century), the book of Clarity (Languedoc - 12th century) and the book of Splendor or Zohar (Moses of Leon, 13th century - Spain).

She goes on to mention the existence of another key, the ten “sefiroth”. These are the attributes of God, two of which are wisdom and beauty. She also speaks of the reparation of the world, a theory of the Kabbalah (17th century) that containers holding the divine light broke; and to repair them, one must follow the commandments, pray, help others, and eat kosher food.;

She ends this part of her presentation by pointing out another distinction: the union of man and woman. The presence of God among us is described by the notion of Shekinah, considered as the feminine part of God. From then on one can understand the metaphors of the conjugal relationship to account for the desire for union between the "En sof" (the Infinite) and the Shekinah.

How to serve God?

Among the other distinctive elements in Judaism, let us emphasize that social justice is very present in their religion. The presenter mentioned the fact that Jews serve God by walking in solidarity. They pray with their feet! They use their free will to do good and to practice mercy in the world. Evil cannot be camouflaged.  They seek the path to walk through their suffer, and they try to turn evil into good. In addressing the presence of mercy in Judaism, Sharon quotes a rabbi, "Do not do to others what you do not want to be done to yourself."

An unusual journey

Raised in a modern home where there was not much talk of God, Sharon became acquainted with faith when meeting with a rabbi, in a synagogue, who told her that "God is good.”  It was in Israel that she met her husband, Peter, a native of Sweden. They have three boys and are part of a community.

Not knowing much about prayer, Sharon undertook a second master's degree and then began a doctorate in Jewish studies. Discovering the importance of belonging, she was not content to continue her research on Jewish studies. She is more interested in dialogue without losing sight of the fact that Jews are in the minority. She emphasizes listening, what she calls oral history. She participates in the Jewish-Christian Dialogue in Quebec. This approach enables an inner transformation that allows her to see the other as a sister, a brother. 

"You have to fight the prejudice of thinking that the other wants me harm," she says. Today, Sharon has undertaken a post-doctoral degree on the oral history of Jews, Cambodians, Rwandans and Haitians.

She listens to life stories while compiling the data collected in a database. The conference was rich in content touching on many aspects, including the question of forgiveness, the many branches of the Jewish religion and the conflict with the Palestinians. 

The session ended with a celebration in the chapel.

 Remember that this activity was organized by the SNJM Spiritual Animation Committee. 

Source: Sr. Constance Létourneau 
Photos: Sr Yolande Dufresne

 


 

The SNJM’s call for Canada to ratify Convention C-189

Significant support was given to protecting the rights of workers with an immigrant background at the SNJM provincial gathering on October 6th.
All those present were asked to sign a postcard calling upon the Canadian government and its Prime Minister, to ratify Convention C-189, adopted at the UN in 2011. This convention identifies a series of measures to be put forward by signatory states to protect the rights of immigrants in the labor market.

The text of the petition in the form of a postcard campaign clearly explained the relevance for Canada to act since there are more and more programs promoting temporary migration. 

 

Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 at a glance

Remember that this approach was part of the spirit of the SNJM Day of Service and Justice, launched by the Congregational Leadership Team. This day was created to highlight the spirit and values of Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher and help meet the needs of our world and the Earth.

The call launched throughout the Congregation was warmly received and led to more than twenty actions held in Quebec and elsewhere, in the days preceding or following October 6th. This collective solidarity initiative was another important moment in the year of celebrations commemorating the 175 years of existence of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM). To learn more about this topic, click here.

Source illustrations: International Labor Office - Geneva

Call for Universal Pastoral Action to Protect Drinking Water

On the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Safeguarding of Creation on 1 September, Pope Francis made realistic observations on environmental issues and, more particularly, on everything concerning the protection of drinking water.

At the outset he said ."It must be acknowledged that we have not succeeded in responsibly protecting creation."  He drew attention to the problem of water by recalling that, “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.”

Pope Francis firmly emphasized the importance and urgency of taking care of water sources and water basins and not allowing the seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic. " We urgently need shared projects and concrete gestures", before adding "... we are called to engage, actively, praying as if everything depended on divine Providence and working as if everything depended on us." 

This vibrant call directly challenges us as a Congregation that adopted, more than ten years ago, a corporate stand on the protection of water as a human right and a public good. What concrete actions can we take on a daily basis to answer this call and contribute to the safeguarding of this essential commodity

The Right To Safe Drinking Water

In its most recent Declaration on the Right to Safe Drinking Water, published on October 9, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) responds to the Pope's call and urges Canadians to take simple actions that can result in important benefits for the good of all. 
Among their suggestions:

• Avoid bottled water whenever possible.
• Make your voice heard to your political representatives to ensure that Canada’s fresh water remains a public good and is not monopolized  by private companies.  
• Make your voice heard to ensure that the federal government follows through on its pledge to provide clean drinking water on First Nations Reserves

In addition, there are many other actions that can make a difference: such as using water wisely to avoid waste, and so on…
Read the the Holy Father's full message of September 1, 2018; as well as information on the proclamation of the United Nations General Assembly which confirmed the 2018-2028 period as the International Decade for ActionWater for Sustainable Development.

Interreligious Dialogue

“God is too large to fit into a credo statement.” said ’Ibn ‘Arabî, Sufi mystic, who then asked each of us:  “Who is God or me?”

During the three planned gatherings, the three women: Jewish, Christian Orthodox and Muslim will answer this question from the perspective of their faith tradition as well as their personal journey.

The three gatherings, organized by the Spiritual Animation Committee, responded to the General Chapter asking us to reflect upon what we can learn from people who are of diverse cultures, races and religious beliefs.

These three women, Sharon Gubbay, Denitsa Tsevtkova et Samia Amor, are our sisters in the faith in the one God.

Welcome to Marie-Rose Durocher Residence on Saturday February 9th and March 30.  The first of these gatherings were held this past November 22nd.

Lise Bluteau, facilitator

 

Other articles in the section News
Being Open To Others In Order To Fight Prejudices
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The SNJM’s call for Canada to ratify Convention C-189
Call for Universal Pastoral Action to Protect Drinking Water
Interreligious Dialogue
A Spiritual Mentor Very Proud of the Journey Taken By Father Reegan Soosai, c.m.f.
A tribute to the SNJM Congregation by the “Polymnie” Choir Ensemble
An invitation to action in solidarity with SNJM’s
Sr. Claudette Bastien represented Canada at a forum in the Vatican concerning migrants and refugees
175 Years in Solidarity for Liberating Action