PROVIDENCE – To commemorate four decades of interfaith work by Rabbi Wayne Franklin, Temple Emanu-El will host a special event on April 7 on the importance of continuing this dialogue in Rhode Island.
Leaders of five different faiths will speak at the Interfaith Symposium, which will both honor Rabbi Franklin and discuss interfaith opportunities ahead.
Franklin, who is retiring this summer after 38 years as Temple Emanu-El’s senior rabbi, has made interfaith efforts a signature part of his tenure, and he has been prominent in the cause locally, nationally and internationally.
“Rabbi Franklin has done so much to advance interfaith relations in Rhode Island and beyond. He has fostered greater understanding and cooperation between many people and groups, and we thought it was appropriate to pay tribute to him by engaging in interfaith dialogue and discussing the future for this critical field,” said Morty Miller, chairman of the symposium.
The program will feature a panel with Arthur Urbano, an associate professor of theology at Providence College and chairman of the school’s Jewish-Catholic Theological Exchange; Randy Friedman, chairman of Judaic studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton; Mufti Ikram ul Haq, imam of Masjid Al-Islam, in North Smithfield; and Judith Jamieson, a longtime lay-leader at the Central Congregational Church and a former president of the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center, in Providence. The moderator will be Jabulani McCalister, senior pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, in Providence.
Franklin has been active in leading many groups in Providence, particularly long-running programs between Catholics and Jews. He has helped run the annual Rhode Island Interfaith Commemoration of the Holocaust, held at Temple Emanu-El since 1984.
Nationally, Franklin is vice chairman of the National Council of Synagogues, and has been part of its conversations with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Churches. Internationally, he has participated in the Forum for Dialogue, Poland’s largest non-governmental organization for Polish-Jewish discussions.
Franklin has also written extensively about the need for and value of interfaith communication.
While accepting the Joseph W. Ress Community Service Award from the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island last June, Franklin said, “Strengthening our community requires all of us to listen respectfully with open hearts and minds to what others with points of view extremely different from our own are saying.”
Last October, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities for “over three decades of service as a faith leader, educator, and advocate for civic dialogues.” Franklin said then, “Meaningful dialogue is possible among people who are eager to learn from one another and who are interested in understanding one another. Dialogue requires mutual respect, rather than trying to convince others of the correctness of one’s position.”
NOEL RUBINTON is a writer based in Providence.