Faith and sexuality

27/06/2009

The latest podcast from Radio Salaam Shalom is out. True to our mission, Radio Salaam Shalom brings Jews and Muslims together to celebrate, debate and share issues that shape our daily lives. One of the questions we use to start a dialogue is – ‘what are you most proud of about being Jewish or Muslim?’ For me the answer is clear – I’m most proud of my Jewish community’s acceptance of my lesbian sexuality. Now sexuality is a topic we’ve never covered in our 2 years of broadcasting so I wasn’t sure what kind of dialogue we’d have if I mentioned the L word.  Four people representing the 3 Abrahamic faiths gathered in the Salaam Shalom studio to listen to Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah (Brighton & Hove Liberal Synagogue) and to take part in a stimulating and lively dialogue.  Click here to listen to this podcast.

Jews in Bristol: a thousand years

27/05/2009

Back in the 10th century there was a Jewish community in the port city of Bristol, UK, the city where Radio Salaam Shalom is based.  Along with the history of other ethnic minorities, the story of the Jews is told in the book Bristol: ethnic minorities and the city, 1000-2001 by Madge Dresser and Peter Fleming.

Radio Salaam Shalom’s latest podcast – Moazzam Begg, Noa, Arabesq and Media4Diversity

06/05/2009

Radio Salaam Shalom’s studios buzzed with music and chat as Carolyn, Farhan, Danyal and I created Podcast 12, the latest Jewish-Muslim programme. Fresh from a private session with ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, Danyal talked about the  unexpected dialogue dividends. Moazzam is one of nine British Muslims  who were held in extrajudicial detention in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp. He was released without charge on January 25, 2005 after being held for 3 years.

We also play the music of Noa, the sounds of Andy Roberts’ ‘Arabesq‘ sessions and share recollections of a trip to the European Media4 Diversity forum  (Farhan and Lisa travelled to Prague after Radio Salaam Shalom was chosen for an EU study as one of Europe’s top 30 examples of media diversity).

Click here to go Radio Salaam Shalom and listen to Podcast 12

Dr Laura, gays, slaves and Judaism

01/05/2009

Whenever I’m in the United States, I enjoy listening to Dr Laura Schlesinger’s radio talk show. She dispenses advice on personal problems, mincing no words and taking no hostages – it’s very entertaining. So I was amused to discover a sermon by Rabbi Elli Tikvah-Sarah of the Brighton & Hove Liberal Progressive Synagogue that took issue with one of Dr Laura’s more offensive opinions – about homosexuality.  Quoting a humorous response from a listener about the purchasing, owning and releasing of slaves in Jewish law, the rabbi goes on to question the relevance of Biblical laws on slavery and on homosexuality.  Read this

How serious is the threat of anti-semitism in Europe?

20/04/2009

I’m often bewildered by media reports and conversations with some Jews about  the serious threat of anti-semitism – these stories are totally at odds with my experience living in England.  In a recent online survey of the views of Jewish leaders and opinion-formers in 31 European countries on the major challenges and issues concerning European Jewish communities, it seems that my perception is shared by other Jews. These people ranked antisemitism ninth in a list of 12 items. The first eight threats included loss of Jewish identity, lack of Jewish knowledge and declining numbers.  Antony Lerman, writing in the Guardian Comment is Free asked a reasonable question: wouldn’t investing more charitable funds in the kind of cultural programmes that show a community interacting with and looking out on the world with confidence do more for the Jewish sense of security than some of the activities of the Community Security Trust ( The Trust monitors and reports on antisemitism, provides security at Jewish events and buildings and works in close cooperation with the police)? My involvement with Radio Salaam Shalom achieves that for me.

Lend for Peace

20/04/2009

A Palestinian woman who loves to cook needs a loan of $2000 to buy a fridge and a rotisserie for her small restaurant. Through LendforPeace.org, a global non-profit that puts individual lenders in touch with vetted Palestinian entrepreneurs, we can do something constructive to help her out of poverty without making her a recipient of charity.   “By encouraging economic opportunity and hope through microfinance, LendforPeace.org seeks to foster stability and peace in the Middle East.” Check it out. I did and it feels a lot better to give her a loan than to give her a handout.

Anne Frank and You Exhibit comes to Bristol

18/04/2009

Building Bridges in Bristol – Just as in Anne Frank’s time, there are communities in Bristol today who are excluded and marginalised. Come to a compassionate listening dialogue session to hear the person behind the label, to make connections with each other and to recognise our common humanity. Facilitated by Lisa Saffron (Radio Salaam Shalom and the Liberal Synagogue) and by Cassandra Howes (inter-faith practitioner). Phone 079207 46150. Small donation requested for room hire.

Wednesday 13th May, 7.30pm, Pierian Centre, 27 Portland Square,  St Paul’s, Bristol BS2 8SA

Monday 18th May, 7.30pm, Horfield Meeting House, 300 Gloucester Road, Bristol BS7 8PD Map

“The Trouble with Islam Today” – read it before judging it

18/04/2009

On mepeace.org, there are some great recommendations.  Here’s another. I recommend Irshad Manji’s book, The Trouble with Islam Today. She writes the book as an open letter to her fellow Muslims,  challenging them to join her in Operation Ijtihad (read the book to find out what this is).  She throws in a call to non-Muslims as well, urging us to be careful of the racism that comes from over-compensating.  This book is an inspiration to reaffirm our commitment to freedom of expression, individuality, and human rights for all.

Sufi Soul music and the image of Islam

15/04/2009

In Sufi Soul on Wild Dervish Writes, the musician Youssou N’dour states his belief that Sufi music can correct the present image of Islam.  I’m happy to add Sufi music to my expanding image of Islam.  I know little about Islam but what I do know is shaped by what I read in the media (most of which is best ignored) and by my direct experiences with Muslims (which I take seriously).  So far, I’ve had many stimulating and positive experiences with open-minded Muslims I’ve met through Radio Salaam Shalom and by some frustrating experiences with homophobic and intolerant Muslims disturbed by my lesbianism. As with any group of people, Islam includes the full diversity of views and behaviours.  Stereotyping and generalising from a small sample doesn’t lead to a correct image of Islam. Maybe there is no correct image.

Peaceful Solutions: Being Peace Workshop

12/04/2009

Sadly, we had to cancel this workshop as not enough people signed up.

A One-Day Workshop on 19 April led by Sheila Yeger and Lisa Saffron The only way out of violence and conflict is for us to embrace the practice of peace, to think and act with compassion, love and understanding.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Working together creatively through Mind, Body and Spirit, we shall explore ways of developing inner peace, peace within relationships, peace in the groups in which we work, and live, and a firm conviction that we can all actively contribute to world peace. These are some of the tools we shall be introducing :
BODY : Qi Gung exercises and a relaxation technique.
MIND : Non -Violent Communication skills, and a positive reframing exercise.
SPIRIT : Loving-kindness Meditation, the Buddhist practice of Tong Len (Giving and Receiving), and Compassionate Listening.

“We must be the change we want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

Date: Sunday April 19th, from 12 noon to 6 p.m
Venue: Horfield Quaker Meeting , 300 Gloucester Road, Bristol BS7

Sheila Yeger is a writer, a teacher of meditation and mysticism, and a student healer. Born into a non-observant Jewish family, she spent 16 years studying and practising Tibetan Buddhism, receiving teachings and initiations from many high Lamas, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama. She is now an active member of the Bristol and West Progressive Congregation, where she regularly leads services based on meditation. She is a mother and a grandmother.

Lisa Saffron is a writer and peacemaker, committed to breaking down barriers between people through the teaching of compassionate listening and constructive dialogue. She belongs to a liberal synagogue and is involved with Radio Salaam Shalom, an internet radio station for Jewish-Muslim dialogue. She is the author of a novel, Checkpoint, set in Israel and the Occupied Territories.