New Haven — Cooperative, constructive interaction between people of different religious traditions comes about through personal relationships.
“Conflict is part of life,” Rabbi Herbert Brockman, spiritual leader of Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, said in delivering St. Albert the Great Lecture Nov. 20 at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven. “But so is relationship … building a relationship of truth and love that begins in humility and sensitivity to the other.
“It’s out of the relationship that dialogue begins,” said the seventh-generation rabbi who will retire next June after 32 years at the Hamden synagogue.
“Interfaith Dialogue: Faith Over Fear” was the title of his talk.
“How do people of faith live in today’s world? They do it by “walking the walk,” he explained. “They do it by example.”
“It’s no accident that the civil rights movement began in basements,” said Rabbi Brockman, a longtime social justice and human rights advocate who has spent a lifetime addressing issues from homelessness and poverty to racial, religious and cultural disparity. His focus currently is on helping undocumented people find sanctuary and sponsoring three Muslim refugee families in his Hamden congregation.
He noted that among colleagues who have shared his journey is his longtime friend, Auxiliary Bishop Peter A. Rosazza. Together the two social justice activists have collaborated on the Interfaith Cooperative Ministries comprised of New Haven churches and traveled to the war-torn region of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2001.
Rabbi Brockman peppered his talk with examples of individuals who put their faith into action “to welcome the stranger,” find “a sense of connection” and risk their lives to help others.
To illustrate, he showed the video clip “Faith Over Fear: Welcoming Refugees Through Faith in Connecticut” about his synagogue’s efforts to resettle Syrian refugees – a video produced by the non-governmental organization Religions for Peace International and UNICEF. Earlier this year, the two organizations launched “Faith Over Fear,” a campaign to promote refugee resettlement around the world.
Observing that Christians, Jews and Muslims share a common scripture, Rabbi Brockman stressed that “what we have in common is the notion that there is a transcendence.”
“We’re here to leave some kind of legacy,” he continued. “God created a world that was not complete; so we’re here as partners to complete the creation.”
Rabbi Brockman’s was the first of three lectures hosted by Albertus Magnus College as part of its annual St. Thomas Aquinas Lecture Series. He received an honorary degree from the college in 2014.
Upcoming lectures include “Journey of the Universe: an Epic Story for our Shared Future” with Yale University’s Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker on Jan. 24 and “Catholic-Muslim Relations: Current Perspectives and Future Directions” with Iman Omer Bajwa, director of Muslim Life in the Chaplain’s Office at Yale University on April 11.