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- BARBARA SCHERMER
by Walter Perschke - p.10
- DEBORAH M. PRATT
by Walter Perschke - p.16
Ruth Broyde Sharone is a storyteller and a superb one at that. She lives in Culver City, California, and has been working as an interfaith activist for 25 years.
Her stories are rich with details and bound with the emotion of the time, which is rich in itself. Ruth explains her ongoing journey through the movement towards world peace in films and books and speeches and each step enriches the whole fabric of her path.
The path towards peace lies in communication between the warring tribes. The path to war lies in the ignorance of the other side's culture, religion, and customs. The Romans were wise, if brutal, conquerors. They just wanted the money. The Romans left the culture and religion of their conquests largely intact, frequently favorably comparing their pagan gods to the pagan gods of their conquest and recognizing the difference was just semantic. Today's wars are about control, dominance, and greed. They are also about revolution. But today's wars are regional or internal, not global, so perhaps that is progress.
"There are no strangers—only people we haven't yet met." These words expressed the essence of the message of interfaith activist Ruth Broyde Sharone.
The award winning film, God and Allah Need to Talk, illustrates how interfaith dialogue, community outreach and even dinner conversation can be channeled to dissolve fear and suspicion and, ultimately, to create a path towards true reconciliation.
Interfaith activist Ruth Broyde Sharon has devoted herself to this pursuit, crisscrossing countries and continents to present alternative models for co-operation among faiths.
"We no longer have the luxury of discussing interfaith engagement just academically or philosophically," she explains. "It must become real, tactile, and visceral, for it can affect the very rise and fall of our world. Therefore we would be wise to encourage it and sustain it, as if our very lives depended on it."
"And perhaps our lives do depend on it," Ruth Broyde Sharone concludes.
Walter Perschke: What was the inspiration for your movie, God and Allah Need to Talk?
Ruth Broyde Sharone: In 2003, I was seeing a play in Hollywood in a neighborhood I seldom visit. At the corner of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards there was a billboard with the then future title of the film. I pulled my car over and wanted to cry because I realized the billboard was about how divided we are. Because of 9/11, we didn't understand what was happening. I knew God and Allah were just one name for divine source and that God was not schizophrenic.
For three days I couldn't get that billboard out of my mind. And then it came to me to make a film by that name. It was an epiphany. I felt it as a direct message to me. It was a biblical occurrence in my life.
The personal message to me was that we were headed down the wrong road and that the billboard was to be the title of the movie.
I drove back to that corner three days later and found the billboard message gone. But there was a phone number below for the company that put the billboard up. They were reluctant to release the name of the sponsor of the advertisement, but when I explained my purpose, which was benign and positive, not hostile, they gave me the name and contact information for Rush Riddle.
I wanted permission from Rush Riddle to use his billboard image and slogan for this film, so I went to visit him at the Department of Power and Water in Los Angeles. I asked him why he had put up the billboard in the first place and he responded, "We are so fractured that we can't talk with one another and we should be able to." Thankfully, he had saved still photos of the billboard which he gave to me to use in the film. One now appears on the jacket of the DVD and as the title in the film. He asked me what the film was going to be about and I told him I did not have the faintest idea. But it soon came to me that I already had the footage I needed to fulfill this vision of producing the film.
I would like to backtrack for a moment. In 1991 I organized an interfaith Seder for Christians and Jews. It was a creative Seder. Kids played and people told stories of their personal experience with oppression and their journey to freedom. This was the first time I had filmed a Seder and it was an interesting experience. Following that, I was led to extraordinary Seders including one for blacks with a black pastor and the first Seder for feminists. At the Straightway Christian Church in California, I participated in a Seder with six hundred African Americans. The minister said that to know Jesus, you have to know who he was, how he lived, and how he celebrated Passover, as a Jew.
In 1992, I participated in a Seder at Chino Prison, mostly for non-Jews. Also a Seder for the gay and lesbian community. Sometimes there were Seders with no Jews present. The story of Passover is universal and occurs in many cultures in our world, in different forms.
The universal theme of liberation from oppression cuts across everything, all cultures, and all boundaries. It is so malleable and asks the question, "What do we have to learn about ourselves to be free?" You don't have to believe in God to celebrate the human condition and be united with other believers.
Walter Perschke: What is your vision for the future?
Ruth Broyde Sharone: I have a dream that one day we will have a Seder for peace for the entire world. There will be a child in Japan asking what is different about tonight and a child in India answering the question.
Walter Perschke: What other events have been pivotal in your journey for peace?
Ruth Broyde Sharone: In 1993, I made my first trip to Israel with a group of blacks and Jews. It was a compelling mission. My colleague, African American minister Delores Gray, had confided to me her prophesy of a pilgrimage to Israel with Jews and her black congregation, and now we were actually fulfilling that vision. We knew we were on to something very special. The trip was such a success that we repeated it in 1994 and this time CNN filmed it for broadcast.
Walter Perschke: How is this film different from the others you have made?
Ruth Broyde Sharone: God and Allah Need to Talk is very, very different from anything else I have produced in that the reception has been phenomenal from the beginning. Every door was opened to me. It took four months to finish the film. Our first viewing was in Los Angeles, and with no advertising, we had a standing room only crowd of four hundred and another 250 were turned away for lack of space. Support and financing had come from everywhere, and so had the audience. I felt I had a call to action and went on the road with the film. The interesting thing is, I believe the film is more relevant today that when it was first introduced in 2003.
Walter Perschke: How does film become a medium for social change?
Ruth Broyde Sharone: It was not easy to use that title. Muslims called to complain about the title. But I knew my heart was in the right place and the title touched many people. The good news is that there are new and exciting possibilities emerging in the pursuit of peace, which have successfully engaged people of all faiths, united them in common causes, and created positive grassroots programs that benefit society as a whole. The process begins by laying the groundwork for trust and cooperation among individuals and among communities, in our schools, our workplaces, our marketplaces, our houses of worship, and in our care of the earth. Film is an excellent medium to communicate, and because it is visual, people remember more of it. The message of peace still falls on many deaf ears, but that does not mean we should give up trying.
Walter Perschke: What do you see as the future of the interfaith community?
Ruth Broyde Sharone: My dream is that it will become extinct, because we won't need it anymore, we will all be there. I imagine all the great ascended masters of all the world religions sitting together in a large room, sometime in our future, and all they say is, "Ah Ha."
Walter Perschke: What do you consider your greatest challenge as you move forward with your work?
Ruth Broyde Sharone: The great challenge for me is that I have to repackage what I do. People today want self-help: help me lose weight; help me have a better sex life; help me retrain for a better job; help me to live on less money.
Their goals are immediate and self-serving. That is what people want to read about today. They don't see the peace movement as something that is crucial to their lives. It is a luxury rather than a necessity. Their thought is, "what's in it for me?"
Here is my little fantasy. There are people all over the world who at another time and in another place were brought together and given divine instructions. "You will meet in the future and will go your separate ways, and then the shift will occur." They are doing parallel work and never meet each other. A global conspiracy for peace.
Ruth is a treasure to be experienced. You have an opportunity to do just that on Sunday, September 9th at Unity North Shore, 3434 Central Ave., Evanston, 7:00–9:00 p.m.
Ruth Broyde Sharone has written, produced and directed documentary and educational films for more than 25 years. She has produced films for Encyclopedia Britannica, American television, Israeli television, private foundations and organizations. A graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Broyde Sharone began her career as a freelance journalist in Latin America, Europe and Israel. She has written for the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Jerusalem Post and The Los Angeles Times among many other national and international publications.
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