The Challenge of “Amen”: A Young Rabbi’s Reflection on Taking Part in an Interfaith Prayer Service

Ari Saks, State of Formation, Jan.09

Last week I had the opportunity to take part in an interfaith prayer service to support my town’s re-elected mayor who would be inaugurated the following day. It was an incredible moment for faith leaders of my town to come together in a moment of unity and collaboration and lend some of our tradition’s wisdom to our elected leaders.

I stepped up to the stage with my prepared words in hand, excited about the opportunity to share some Jewish words of prayer in a public setting. Yet at the same time, I carried some of the nervous anxiety that has been stewing for over 2,000 years. See–before I approached the stage in the YMCA, most of the words offered before me were offered specifically in the name of Jesus Christ.

That is why being in that prayer space in the YMCA was particularly challenging. Though I did not agree with everything that was said in that space, my presence admitted a certain acceptance of the content being recited, especially with the plethora of opportunities to say “Amen.” How could agreeing to take part in such a service not be an admission that, on some Jewish level, I was saying “Amen” to what everyone else was saying?

Yet with all of those feelings running through me I stepped up to the stage to perform a function that is both very difficult and extremely important and necessary. In the midst of an interfaith prayer service, in which each pastor was sharing the truth of their own path, I shared the truth of mine. I talked words of Torah, I invoked the messages of the rabbis through the centuries, and I described God in uniquely Jewish terms.

None of this was done to show up the other faiths that were present, but rather to raise the truth of my own path so that others could hear it and learn from it. I wanted to be in that setting that made me uncomfortable because that is where I believe my tradition needs to be heard.

Read the complete article here.