Thursday, August 25, 2016

Baha'i Gardens attracting Jewish people to the Baha'i Faith

Born and raised in Haifa, Israel, Mordecai Schreiber spent six years in Latin America and is equally at home in Hebrew, Spanish, and English. He has served congregations in the U.S. and Central America, and has worked as an editor, translator, and publisher, with over 50 books authored under his name and under the pen name Morry Sofer.
For the past ten years I have been studying the prayers and meditations of the world’s major religions.

I have also traveled during that time, as a cruise ship clergyperson, to over 100 countries and islands. In all my travels I have been fascinated by the fervor of people everywhere whom I saw praying and meditating either alone, or in small groups, as well as in very large numbers. I have learned some important lessons about the power of prayer and its universality. In countries like Russia and China, where religion was suppressed for decades, I found large numbers of people attending Russian Orthodox churches and Buddhist temples, respectively. It became clear to me that human spiritual needs run much deeper than political ideologies. Most importantly, I became aware of the commonality of all forms of spiritual experience and devotion. While outwardly it seems that religions differ greatly from one another, in reality the differences come more from form than from substance.

My entire life has been a spiritual quest. I was born to secular Jewish parents in the seaport city of Haifa under the British Mandate for Palestine. Yet from a very young age I was fascinated by all the Abrahamic religions which dwelled side by side in my native town. Interestingly, I grew up across the street from the Baha’i temple and gardens in Haifa, and I learned at a young age that the Baha’i Faith embraced all religions.

Now, years later, I have come to fully appreciate the Baha’i belief in the oneness of religion and the progressive nature of revelation. For years, I have been troubled by the rivalry and exclusivism which characterized the way Judaism, Christianity, and Islam approached one another. When I decided to become a rabbi, I chose a progressive branch of Judaism, and after I was ordained I pursued interfaith studies and activities.

The post-Cold War world has now entered a new phase, which some refer to as a cultural and religious “clash of civilizations.” There seems to be a greater need today than ever before to initiate a world dialogue among all religions to harness the universal power of prayer and faith for the common good, rather than continue to work at cross-purposes, which can only exacerbate conflicts around the globe.

In my new book, Why People Pray: The Universal Power of Prayer, I make a case for a new language of prayer which can bring all people together across ideological divides. I point out that the Baha’i teachings are perfectly suited for starting a new phase in the history of human faith, in which the common good of all humanity is recognized as the highest value to be pursued by all cultures and creeds:

This is a new cycle of human power. All the horizons of the world are luminous, and the world will become indeed as a garden and a paradise. It is the hour of unity of the sons of men and of the drawing together of all races and all classes. You are loosed from ancient superstitions which have kept men ignorant, destroying the foundation of true humanity.

The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, pp. 19-20.

In the final analysis, we all live on a planet that keeps getting smaller and ever more interdependent, and the good of one is the good of all.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Persian Jews Embracing Baha'i Religion

Persian Jews - 1900s
December 29, 1930

Jerusalem (Dec. 27)

The upper class Jews of Persia are rapidly embracing the Bahai religion, and the Jewish communities are disintegrating, according to Dr. W. Fishel, lecturer in the Oriental Institute of the Hebrew University, who has just returned from a trip to Persia, Iraq and Kurdistan.

Dr. Fishel stated to a representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that English and American Christian missions are making the most of the disintegration of Jewish communities, establishing missions and schools among the poorer classes as the community leaders turn to Bahaism. “The Persian Jews are not only being converted but are being used as instruments for converting Jews of neighboring countries,” says Dr. Fishel.

He spoke of a “Marrano” community of five thousand families in Meshed, who secretly continued to practice their Judaism, and supported Jewish schools. In many cities, he said, Jews had openly applied to missions to establish schools for their children, as they found the establishments of the Alliance Israelite and of the Anglo-Jewish Association inadequate.

One-third of the Jewish children of Teheran were attending the mission schools, said Dr. Fishel, and the Church of England has decided to open a new school within the ghetto. The same conditions are prevalent in Amadan and Isphahan, he asserted, half the Jews of Amadan having adopted an oriental faith.