South Bay Interfaith
South Bay Interfaith History
In 1973, at the time of the Yom Kippur War, Lil Silberstein, the director of the National Conference for Christians and Jews branch in Silicon Valley was concerned that, although her work with community relations and developing tolerance brought her into contact with Christian and Jewish leaders, there was at the time no place for those leaders to meet, to develop collegial relationships, and to discuss signficant issues of concern to religious communities and the wider community. And so, under the auspices of NCCJ, she developed a Jewish/ Christian dialogue group which became the core of interfaith dialogue in the South Bay.
At first, the group was specifically focused on Jewish/ Christian dialogue, but the changing face of Silicon Valley and the increasing religious diversity eventually led to a broadening of interest in participation, including Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, and other religious traditions. NCCJ itself went through several changes of organization during those years, and is now known as Silicon Valley FACES. It continued its support of the Religious Leaders Dialogue through those years.
In 2005, the religious calendars of the Jewish and Muslim traditions produced a significant conjunction. The Jewish observance of Rosh Hashana, the New Year, coincided with the Muslim month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast every day from sunup to sundown. Several members of the dialogue group were interested in creating a community-wide event to bring together Jews, Muslims, and Christians to celebrate their common heritage as Children of Abraham. The South Bay Interfaith Steering Committee was formed to plan the event, and the result was Fasting & Feasting: A Family Reunion of the Children of Abraham, held on October 6, 2005. There were prayers and readings, followed by messages from Imam Tahir Anwar (South Bay Islamic Association), Rabbi Dana Magat (Temple Emanu-El), Father José Rubio (Catholic Diocese of San José), and Rev. Margo Tenold (Council of Churches of Santa Clara County). The group then broke the fast together.
All agreed that the event had been a great success, and so planning soon began for a second gathering, this time extending the invitation to non-Abrahamic religious groups as well. On September 21, 2006, people gathered again at the Circle of Palms in downtown San Jose for Breaking Bread Together: An Interfaith Reunion. Following calls to worship from Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, and Jewish groups, there was a candle lighting ceremony and opportunity for attendees to meet and talk with one another. Closing blessings were offered from Wiccan, Unitarian, and Kriya Yoga leaders.
The focus of the third gathering was on music. Keep the Diversity; Seek the Harmony on October 2, 2007 featured singing groups from Buddhist, Jewish, Unitarian, Catholic, Mormon, and Hindu groups, followed by group conversation. Afterwards, the whole assembly joined in singing "A Song of Peace."
In 2008, the Steering Committee commissioned a work group, later known as the Silicon Valley Partner City Group, to explore the process for our region to join the Partner City Network being developed by the Parliament of the World's Religions. That group met regularly, beginning in June of 2008, doing research and analysis of the region's history, demographics, and interfaith cooperation. Their work was rewarded when, in October 2009, San Jose and Silicon Valley were named the Inaugural Partner City of the Parliament. A delegation from the group attended the Parliament in December of 2009, and led a workshop on what they learned in the process.
South Bay Interfaith joined with Silicon Valley FACES to sponsor an event on January 19th, 2009 called New Beginnings: Building a Community of Hope. It marked both the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the inauguration of President Barack Obama. LaDoris Cordell, retired Judge of the Superior Court, reflected on the promise and work that lay ahead.
The final event co-sponsored by South Bay Interfaith was Circle of Hands: People of Faith Respond in Solidarity, a joint effort with the Santa Clara County Council of Churches, the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice, and Muslim Voice. The gathering was held on September 10th, 2010, in response to the rising tide of anti-Muslim statements in national life.
South Bay Interfaith was a significant stepping stone in creating community among the diverse religious traditions of the Valley, as the work now continues in new ways under the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council. We hope that you will find ways to join with us in building interreligious harmony so as to promote a just and compassionate society in Silicon Valley.