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"Three Faiths: Making Connections For Students"

Wendy Eagan

Walt Whitman High School


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    All too often we stress differences rather than connections when discussing or teaching Judaism, Christianity and Islam; now there is a wonderful visual remedy easily available to all educators. In October of 2006, Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies ( hosted a seminar entitled “The Abrahamic Faiths: Parallels, Intersections,Divergences.” A warm welcome was given by Barbara Stowasser, Director of CASS and John Espsito, Director of the Center for Christian ­ Muslim Understanding. Throughout the day the academic approach was comparative and the empanelled scholars were Jewish (Rabbi Harold White), Christian (V. Rev. Constantine White) and Muslim (Imam Yahya Hendi). All are Chaplains from the University who presented papers from their own perspective as well as from the other two Abrahamic faiths. The day concluded with a presentation of “Three Faiths, One God: Judaism, Christianity, Islam” by filmmakers Gerald Krell and Meyer Odze. ( All seminar participants saw firsthand how this educational documentary could visually support any textual sources used to teach belief systems. Since world historians embrace the analytical technique of direct comparison, this film (available on DVD or VHS) is appropriate for any classroom. 1
    Formerly producers with the United States Information Agency, Krell and Odze have formed Auteur Productions, Ltd. and have created two educational films dealing with contemporary practices of the faithful in the United States. Their earlier documentary was “Jews and Christians: A Journey of Faith” ( Both of their films have aired nationwide on public television stations. Their goal is for viewers to gain a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, each other. As they quote one of their interviewees on their website: “There is enormous value in attempts to reaffirm for people who are believers of different faiths that they share basic, human values on which they can build or rebuild mutually respectful peaceful relationships.”
    “Three Faiths, One God” compares a variety of topics, divided into seventeen units, that can be accessed through the menu for easy classroom adaptation. Each segment can stand alone or be used in combination with another. A study guide prepared by Marvin Wilson and Sulayman Nyang comes with the DVD, allowing instructors to choose exact times and content most pertinent for their daily lessons. Each unit is organized around central question tied specifically to “scenes, visuals, and/or the commentary provided by scholars, religious leaders, or laypeople,” according to the introduction to the study guide.
    The author and scholar Karen Armstrong opens the documentary by discussing “similar notions of the divine,” while Imam Feisal Rauf compares scriptural interpretations of love for God in the next segment. Another useful section compares prayer, charity and pilgrimage in all three faiths. The Golden Age of Spain is described by Rabbi David Rosen as a “time of productive collaboration” and is demonstrated against the backdrop of the beautiful cities of Granada and Cordoba and the music of the Moroccan Al-Andalus Ensemble. The challenge of religious extremism in all three faiths is illustrated by the father of the murdered journalist Danny Pearl, who was filmed at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Pearl poignantly observes that “the hatred that killed Danny also opened up opportunities to fight hatred.” 4
    One powerful segment is filmed with members of an interfaith dialogue group openly discussing the pain of slurs and the issue of scapegoating from their personal experiences. Diana Eck, Director of Harvard’s Pluralism Project, directs a discussion of issues of common concern to women of the monotheistic faiths, including inheritance rights, marriage practices, raising children, oppression and degradation of females, and interfaith roles. The film concludes with a look to the future in the multicultural and religiously diverse United States and the perspective held by Professor Krister Stendahl that “human limitation results in various religious communities needing each other.”
    In commentary after viewing the film, Professor Reuven Firestone (Hebrew Union College) reminds us that “we often forget the many deep and profound similarities between Islam and Judaism and Christianity.” Students will have less reason to do so if introduced to the stunning visuals, scholarly insights, personal observations, moving music and noble aims of this exceptional documentary. 6


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