Ours faithfully… rebbetzen and priest complete 18-month journey

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Ours faithfully… rebbetzen and priest complete 18-month journey

Ilana Epstein and Reverend Susan Bolen have finished a grassroots programme sponsored by the Chief Rabbi and Archbishop of Canterbury.

Rebbetzen Ilana Epstein, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Rev Susan Bolen.
Rebbetzen Ilana Epstein, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Rev Susan Bolen.

A rebbetzen and female priest have completed a unique 18-month  joint educational programme.  

Ilana Epstein of Western Marble Arch synagogue and Reverend Susan Bolen of St. Paul’s Wimbledon Parkside worked side-by-side during the In Good Faith programme, sponsored by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

The project aims to cultivate engagement between Jewish and Anglican religious leaders and provide opportunities for interfaith activity at grassroots level.

The Archbishop of Canterbury with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. Pic credit: Lambeth Palace

Ilana and Susan met with religious leaders from Jerusalem online as well as educators and theologians from both Christian and Jewish worlds and recently travelled together to the National Holocaust centre and museum in Nottinghamshire.

Following the final meeting of the project at the library of Lambeth Palace, Rebbetzen Epstein said what she found most compelling from her experience was the reaction of her fellow graduates after sharing news of antisemitic verbal attacks in the US from Kanye West.

Epstein told Jewish News: “I’d felt very stressed that morning and very, very alone. When I shared what I’d seen with Susan, I was taken aback by the horror on her face. The shock she felt was real. As a Jew, in this world, we often feel very alone. Having these other faith leaders actually realise that what was happening was wrong was a real moment for me. I do know that their sense of empathy rather than sympathy was present.”

On her bond with the reverend, she added: “Susan is a fellow American expat with deep insight into her community.”

‘In Good Faith’ sees rabbis, rebbetzens and priests debate pressing issues including combating religious extremism, the challenge of creating and sustaining thriving faith communities, Israel and its implications for inter-religious relations, alongside reflections on the opportunities that exist, within both faiths, to contribute to the common good together.

The hope is that relationships formed as part of the project will mean longstanding interfaith partnerships that lead to collaboration between communities on the ground.

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