A new weekly course is bringing together Jewish and Muslim women to study each other’s spiritual texts and the roles of women in these religions.
Shari Golberg and Nevin Reda lead the course, which focuses on different aspects of the religions each week. Golberg is a PhD student and Reda teaches Muslim studies at Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto’s downtown campus. Together, they teach students about various aspects of Judaism and Islam.
“I’ve always loved the experience of reading texts in this type of environment where Muslims, Jews and occasionally Christians come together to read the text,” Reda said, explaining that these types of classes bring texts to life.
To emphasize the course’s goal, the classes are held in three different venues. The first three take place at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. The next three bring the group to the Noor Cultural Centre in Don Mills. The final class will be at U of T’s Multi-Faith Centre for Spiritual Study and Practice.
“The rotation was done on purpose so people can get a sense of what the inside of one another’s houses look like,” Golberg said.
The course has its roots in a group Golberg put together in 2004 called “When Beruriah Met Aisha,” referring to two female religious authorities, one Jewish and one Muslim.
“Wouldn't it be interesting if these two women could have had an opportunity to dialogue with one another?” Golberg said, joking that because they lived at different times in history, it would require collapsing the time-space continuum.
Instead, she organized the next best thing: bringing their descendants, Jewish and Muslim women, together to explore the religions and women’s roles in them.
Some of the topics to be covered include female leadership, modesty laws, marriage and divorce, and depictions of each other’s religions in their respective texts.
Reda said the class will examine similarities and differences between the two faiths. For example, there are obvious similarities between how each religion deals with menstruation, such as women not being allowed to participate in some prayers, read the Torah or touch the Koran while menstruating, Reda said.
However, they differ in the rituals used to “purify” women after their period ends, Reda said.
More than 20 women have enrolled in the course, which began Oct. 18 and runs for seven weeks on Thursdays. It’s open to all ages, but there’s a discount for women from 18 to 30.
To find out more or to register, visit www.multifaith.utoronto.ca.