FEATURE: Conversation with Interfaith Leaders

Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in October there have been several separate rallies in Ithaca supporting Palestine or Israel. Public emotions ran high when the Tompkins County Legislature briefly considered a resolution in support of Israel and flying the Israeli flag in the legislative chamber. 

It was around that time, that I asked three local interfaith leaders to talk about their work together and how the war is affecting it.

Mahmoud Burton, Rabbi Shifra Tobacman, and Rev. Dr. David Kaden (l-r). Celia Clarke/WRFI

This is a two-part interview with Mahmoud Burton a leader in the local Muslim community. Rabbi Shifra Tobacman the spiritual leader at Tikkun v’Or in Ithaca and Rev. Dr. David Kaden of the First Congregational Church of Ithaca.

We spoke before the recent arrest of a Cornell student for allegedly making violent antisemitic threats against the Jewish community on campus.

Each made it clear their opinions are their own and don’t represent their entire faith communities.

PART 1 - I started by asking how they are taking care of their own emotions while helping their communities. Mahmoud Burton spoke first.



PART 2 - We pick up with Rabbi Tobacman and Mr. Burton talking about how other people have reacted to their interfaith work since the war began.

A reading list, videos, and a monthly potluck dinner

An interfaith potluck dinner is held in Tompkins County every 3rd Thursday. The location varies.

"Please bring a labeled vegetarian dish-to-pass and an open heart to meet new friends. No time to cook? Please be our guest!

We welcome all of our neighbors from all Faith traditions: Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc., Neighbors with faith in their community, and those unaffiliated with a specific faith group; ALL are truly welcome."

Mahmoud Burton recommends these materials as a good starting point for understanding the historical and political contexts of current events.

Two books by Israeli historian, Ilan PappeA History of Modern Palestine and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

The Jewish American political scientist Norman Finkelstein also has many books, among them "Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom". Here is a recent interview that gives very helpful context: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUfWTHbCS78

Another figure with a helpful perspective is the holocaust survivor Gabor Mate, a good interview can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHDBw-wx6w0

Rabbi Shifra Tobacman recommends these readings:

Embracing Israel/Palestine by Rabbi Michael Lerner

Beyond the Two-State Solution by Jonathan Kuttab

Humanitarian and other organizations working for peace in Israel and Palestine - 

Helping Hand for Relief and Development - www1.hhrd.org

Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) – english.acri.org.il

B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – btselem.org

Hand In Hand – handinhandk12.org

Healing Across the Divides – healingdivides.org

Oasis of Peace – https://www.oasisofpeace.org/

Machsom Watch - machsomwatch.org

Across the Divide - acrossthedivide.com

Rebuilding Alliance - rebuildingalliance.org