Elie Wiesel-inspired fellowship models peace building amid Israel-Hamas War

by | Nov 17, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — The United States was in the throes of the pandemic. Shoppers were clashing over mask mandates, cities were roiling with Black Lives Matter protests and talk show hosts debated the validity of the 2020 election. Amid society’s rifts, Juliana Taimoorazy, an international advocate, Iraqi Christian and self-described conservative, embraced conflict a step further: She joined a cohort of emerging leaders with opposing worldviews.   “Meeting people from different walks of life, with different political and religious views, that was new to me. Mainly I was just surrounded with like-minded people in my network,” said Taimoorazy, who founded the Iraqi Christian Relief Council in 2007.
In any other context, such a gathering could easily combust or unravel. But under the attentive guidance of Rabbi Ariel Burger, a lifelong student of Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and author of “Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom,” the cohort members not only sharpened their personal beliefs, but also cultivated true friendships. Disagreement, Taimoorazy learned, was an opportunity.
“Learning to love one another despite our vast differences was something stark that I came out with,” Taimoorazy told RNS.
Grounded in teachings from Jewish mysticism and from Wiesel, The Witness Institute’s fellowship program, which launched a beta version in 2020, is designed for emerging leaders seeking to develop understanding across difference. Burger teamed up with Wiesel’s son, Elisha Wiesel, to establish the institute, which was envisioned as a legacy …

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