New interfaith group, Daughters of Abraham, brings women together
A buzz of energy filled the social room last week at Temple Chai in Long Grove.
Nearly 100 women poured in for a meet and greet with celebrated New York author Sabeeha Rehman after reading her book "Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman's Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim."
But there was more going on than a book review.
The newly formed organization Daughters of Abraham, hosted the event. The group is an offshoot of the Children of Abraham Coalition, started by the Rev. Corey Brost as a way to advance interfaith dialogue between Christian, Jewish and Muslim teens -- and stand up to religious-based hatred.
It turns out the mothers of these teens -- and others from their respective communities -- wanted to learn more about each other's faith traditions. They even established their own tag line: Women seeking peace through understanding.
After gathering for the first time last year, their numbers have grown with each event. Even last week, organizers had to set up more chairs.
"Every time we come together there is so much love in the room," says Maxine Sukenik of Lincolnshire, a member of Temple Chai who helped organize the event.
As the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants who had fled the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, she was raised "to fear the others," she said.
"But as an adult, I became very curious about the other faith traditions," said Sukenik, one of three co-founders of the Daughters of Abraham.
Another co-founder, Shaheen Khan of Wheeling, represented the Muslim faith community. She worships at the Islamic Education Center in Glendale Heights and said women in particular play an important role in advancing religious tolerance.
"They want to leave a better world for their children," Khan said.
At each of the gatherings so far, she added, one common element galvanized their meetings: each woman's story.
"Our stories connect us," Khan said. "Women like to talk and share their experiences. It all comes down to our stories."
Emily Egan, a campus minister at St. Viator High School and a representative of the Christian faith, agreed.
"It's the threads of our stories," Egan said, "that weaves us together."
Khan's daughter, 14-year-old Syeda, was among three young teens who opened the evening with a brief description of their involvement in the Children of Abraham Coalition and how it has changed them.
While Syeda attended a private Muslim school when she was younger, she now is a freshman at Wheeling High School, where she openly wears her hijab and is beginning to take a more active role in promoting cultural diversity.
"At first, I was astonished to see so much diversity at school," Syeda said, "but because of my involvement with Children of Abraham, I'm able to talk about it. Being educated about other faiths has helped."
This educated audience of women enjoyed hearing Rehman tell of her journey to this country after an arranged marriage, and of all her attempts to assimilate into the American culture.
Many of the women had read her story through a book club within their respective churches, but hearing of her attempt to find a Muslim community in New York and of ultimately becoming an advocate for interfaith understanding, resonated with them, no matter their religion.
"As the world gets smaller, we realize we're far more similar than different," Sukenik said, "and by coming together we realize we can be even more powerful."
For details about upcoming Daughters of Abraham events, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit The Children of Abraham's Facebook page. Follow them on Twitter, @coacpeace.