organizers of the discussion decided to start the evening with food, not with a detaileddiscussion of sources or reading material. In no way was this evening an exercise insubstantively appeasing and reconciling religious differences; in fact, on a religious level,it was no more productive than a dinner party!So, indeed, the only thing accomplished at the conference entitled “Role of Religious Leaders to promote Peace, Love, and Harmony in a Diverse Society” was asocial harmonization of a diverse town in a borough of New York City. Possibly that wasthe only goal of I. H. Kauser, the imam at Bait uz-Zafar. Is there value in balancing thedifferences between various outlooks, goals, morals, and traditions that exist in a multi-cultural society?Throughout classic Jewish texts, we are warned against creating relationshipswith people of other faiths. The very reason given in the Talmud
for not eating foodcooked by non-Jews is that one should not become acquainted with non-Jews for the fear that if one becomes familiar with a gentile, he will intermarry. Nevertheless, RabbiAbraham Isaac ha-Kohen Kook maintains that there is value in understanding the cultureand mores of other societies. Rabbi Kook, as quoted by Rabbi Shalom Carmy in his essay“The Nature of Inquiry: A Common Sense Perspective,” argues that:The highest state of love of creatures (
) should be allotted to thelove of mankind, and it must extend to all mankind, despite all variations of opinions, religions and faiths, and despite all distinctions of grace and climate. Itis right to get to the bottom of the views of the different peoples and groups, tolearn, as much as possible, their characters and qualities, in order to know how to base love of humanity on foundations that approach action.