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Embracing All Faiths

Intertwine Interfaith is an initiative to build positive relationships while learning more about other faith communities. In a world where divisiveness may seem like the norm, we strive to celebrate both our similarities and differences with members of various faiths and backgrounds.

Interfaith News and Events →

Intertwine Interfaith Iftar Dinner 2022

As the Holy Month of Ramadan is upon us, Congregation Shaare Emeth, Parkway United Church of Christ and the Turkish American Society of Missouri invite you to attend our Intertwine Interfaith Iftar Dinner. We are so excited that this will be our very first large in-person gathering since the pandemic physically distanced us.

Iftar Dinners bring individuals from different religious and cultural communities together to learn about the significance of the month of Ramadan in Islam, engage in friendly table conversation, and break fast with an Iftar dinner. All faiths are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Iftar is the name for a community dinner held daily after sunset to mark the end of a day of fasting. Ramadan, the ninth month in the Muslim calendar, is a special time for the Muslim community. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims worldwide fast from dawn to sunset to achieve greater self-discipline, self-purification, and compassion for those less fortunate.

We hope you can join us at Shaare Emeth.

Please RSVP by April 17, 2022 using this link...
https://congregationshaareemeth.shulcloud.com/form/intertwine-interfaith-iftardinner

This is a free event but a $10.00 donation per person is appreciated to cover the cost of food.

Ramadan Mubarak!

IIWC welcomes family from Afghanistan

March 21, 2022

The Intertwine Interfaith Welcome Circle (IIWC) is excited to announce that the family we are sponsoring arrived on Feb. 14, 2022 - Valentine's Day! After a week at an Airbnb (provided free!), we moved the family into a three-bedroom apartment. Finding suitable, affordable housing proved to , be very difficult, but our housing team came through - although adjusting our budget for a higher monthly rent was necessary. Our circle agreed that it's important to provide the best possible start for the family as they begin their life as new Americans.

The family consists of mom, dad, sons aged 11 and 9, and daughters aged 7 and 3. The children started school February 28 and they LOVE it. Currently, they are in a program for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). The boys both speak quite a bit of English and the girls are learning quickly. The parents speak English quite well and are taking ESOL classes (levels one and three) four days per week. We have only needed a translator a few times to be certain the family is thoroughly understanding instructions or procedures.

Our IIWC members have been helping the family navigate the systems and track down all the documentation needed to apply for their drivers permits, health care/insurance, SNAP benefits, and jobs. SNAP (food stamps) benefits may take several months to be processed so the family is visiting three food pantries (one trip each per month) to supplement the groceries being purchased from the IIWC fundraising. The family is being taught about budgeting and the American banking system. The parents are both eager to begin working and we are helping them prepare for and navigate that process. They both worked in the medical field in Afghanistan but the process to be licensed for similar jobs in the U.S. will take a couple of years. However, they are committed and determined to reach their goals.

The family is warm, open, resilient, intelligent, and extremely appreciative of the various forms of assistance provided by the three communities involved in IIWC. The children are surprisingly joyful, loving, comfortable, and confident, despite the trauma the family has been through on their journey to St. Louis. "Excuse me..." is a phrase we've each heard countless times as the children all begin their questions or requests for our attention with this polite phrase. The family is already starting to make jokes in English! The children love to play outside, inventing variations of sports with whatever ball is available, and are extremely excited to learn to swim.

We are fortunate to have a strong, dedicated, tireless team of 18 people including educators, medical professionals, immigrants, people who have previously helped immigrants, organizers, people who are available to transport the family to appointments during the day, and "Jewish mothers" - regardless of our religion or gender! ; )

As the family learns, so do we! For example:

-it's important to be very clear about operating U.S. appliances (food goes IN the freezer, not ON the freezer)
-halal (permitted) food can be identified by a circled U or a kosher symbol on the label or by looking for specific haram (forbidden) ingredients on the label
-fresh halal meat at Middle Eastern markets is VERY fresh
-a family of six can eat an INCREDIBLE amount of naan in a day since it's used as a "spoon" at every meal
-not all naan is created equal - the family is quite specific about the type they prefer
-there are even more varieties of rice than we knew
-everyone loves pizza
-adapting to shopping one or two times a week instead of daily market trips can be challenging
-the love of stuffed animals & Spiderman is universal
-"camp" is a trigger word after their time at a US military "camp" - so different words need to be used instead of "summer camp"
-embracing American clothing, customs, and practices can wax and wane daily as the family finds their way
-car seats and booster seats require a tutorial to anchor safely; now many circle members have seats to keep in their cars

Driving will be a huge step toward independence for the family. The father worked part time as a driver in Afghanistan; by law, the mother was not allowed to drive, but snuck out under the cover of darkness to practice driving! Copies of the U.S. drivers' instruction manual have been translated into Dari and Pashto (thank you to those who helped!) and the family has been studying in their native languages and English in preparation for the permit test. The mom is excited to have passed her permit test this week! Several patient members of the circle will then begin practicing driving for their license exam. A particularly generous circle member is providing a small car for the family to learn to drive.

To accommodate the family of six, we hope to purchase a reliable used van in the future. If you would like to contribute to help with the purchase of a van, as well as other living expenses, please send a check payable to

Congregation Shaare Emeth
Attention: Debbie Bram
11645 Ladue Road
St. Louis, Mo 63141
Please write "IIWC family" on the memo line.

If you would like to make a donation via credit card, please call (314) 569-0010. We ask that you cover the corresponding merchant fee.

IIWC is a collaborative initiative with founding and core participants from Congregation Shaare Emeth, the Turkish American Society of Missouri (TASOM), and Parkway United Church of Christ. We are grateful for the donations and support provided by members of the three communities, as well as other friends and neighbors.

PRESS RELEASE

February 16, 2022

Contacts:

Rabbi Andrea Goldstein, Congregation Shaare Emeth

(314) 569-0010; agoldstein@sestl.org

 

Ali Durhan, TASOM

(773) 629-9460; alikdurhan@gmail.com

 

Kevin Cameron, Pastor – Parkway United Church of Christ

(314) 330-0629; kevin@parkwayucc.org

 

Jewish, Muslim, and Christian friends unite to welcome Afghan family to St. Louis

 

St. Louis, MO – The Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths share many similarities, including a strong commitment to welcome refugees and help those in distress. With a strong foundation of the Abrahamic religions’ common values, Congregation Shaare Emeth, Parkway United Church of Christ, and Turkish American Society of Missouri (TASOM) have joined together to form the Intertwine Interfaith Welcome Circle (IIWC). The purpose and privilege of IIWC is to sponsor an Afghan family in their move to St. Louis.

 

Nearly 70,000 Afghanis have arrived in the United States, seeking safety in the face of the Taliban regime’s 2021 return to power. These new Americans have been temporarily housed on U.S. military bases. Nine U.S. resettlement agencies, including the International Institute in St. Louis, have been working diligently to settle the Afghanis throughout the United States, however, historic low arrivals during the previous administration led to significantly limited resources for resettlement.

Consequently, the US Department of State issued a call to action to expand the capacity to welcome these families and help them begin their new lives as Americans through the establishment of sponsor circles. https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/23/politics/afghan-refugees-private-resettlement-veterans/index.html

 

Hearing the call, IIWC was launched as an emergency initiative through the Welcome Circle program with HIAS (formerly known as Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) which has settled more than 4.5 million refugees since being founded in 1881. Through the three faith communities, family, and friends, IIWC raised more than $28,000 to cover essential needs such as housing, clothing, food, and utilities for the family’s first six months in St. Louis. IIWC has also relied on the broader generosity of the faith groups and the community for donations of furniture and other household goods to create a welcoming, comfortable home for the family.

 

The IIWC founders and core teams are made up of representatives from each faith organization. The core team will have direct contact with the Afghani family, enrolling the kids in school, helping the parents learn the fundamentals of food shopping, transportation, language skills, banking and more, while also introducing the family to the many cultural and entertainment options in St Louis. Resource identification, career assistance, and assimilation to the St. Louis community will be ongoing efforts to help the family become self-sufficient.

 

IIWC is excited to announce that a family of six, including four children aged three to 11, arrived in St. Louis on Valentine’s Day! At least two other sponsor circles are actively engaged in bringing Afghans to the St. Louis area.

 

IIWC was born out of the Intertwine Interfaith Initiative which was created in the spring of 2018 to bring people together to celebrate the commonalities and differences of various faiths. The goal of the initiative is to build friendship, understanding, and appreciation as we all strive to serve God and share our gifts with humanity. Since its founding, Intertwine Interfaith Initiative has shared holidays from each faith, facilitated a discussion series, hosted live and virtual cooking classes, and organized community service opportunities.

 

Congregation Shaare Emeth’s mission is to be a compassionate and inclusive community that makes Judaism relevant, meaningful, and joyful. Members and guests of all ages experience a strong sense of community, are intellectually and spiritually engaged, and are committed to the values of tzedakah (justice) and acts of gemilut chasadim (acts of compassion and kindness). Congregation Shaare Emeth believes that all people are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.  In that vein, the Congregation is dedicated to work together to fulfill the Jewish mandate of tikkun olam, repairing our world, by alleviating poverty and hunger, fighting injustice, caring for human beings in times of need, protecting the environment, and bringing peace.

 

Turkish American Society of Missouri (TASOM) is a non-profit organization founded and supported by the individuals who are inspired by the ideals and the principles of the Hizmet Movement in 2007 in St. Louis. Its goal is to assume the role of liaison between the Turkish community and other communities living in St. Louis area and Missouri at large. The association works to strengthen the intercultural community and ensure a positive experience for those who are willing to participate in cross-cultural activities. At the heart of all our programs, TASOM strives to create a positive social environment in which to build and strengthen the quality of life in Missouri. The ultimate goal of TASOM’s activities is to build stronger and safer communities through communication and interaction. TASOM also seeks to enrich the experience of the entire community by providing opportunities to engage and educate the community related to diversity. Fostering diversity, inclusion, and respect for all the community is one of the goals of TASOM.

 

Parkway United Church of Christ celebrates an extravagant welcome for all, "no matter who you are or where you are on life's journey.” The congregation is guided by limitless love, courageous action, and spirited inquiry, while advocating for justice for all and extending hospitality as a sign of God's inclusive love. The denomination is proud to work with — not against — people of other faiths. The United Church of Christ is a mainline denomination with more than 1.1 million members in 5,100 congregations.