Goodwill Project Mixes Religion and Carpentry

October 13, 2008

Author: Kyung M. Song

Source: The Seattle Times

Here's a remark rarely — if ever — overheard at a construction site:

"The Jewish experience was shaped by the Diaspora. ... "

The speaker was Phil Gerson, a retired Boeing employee who belongs to Bellevue's Temple B'nai Torah. Listening was Farhad Ahmed, a journalism student at Bellevue Community College and a member of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound in Redmond.

Gerson and Ahmed were among four dozen Jews, Muslims and Christians who gathered Sunday at an annual interfaith event to build houses for Habitat for Humanity, volunteers putting up drywall while trying to bridge religious and cultural chasms.

Gerson, wearing a hard hat and a tool belt, swung his arm around Ahmed, a first-time volunteer, and announced, "This here is my friend."

Ahmed listened deferentially as the older man explained how Jews came to be "wired for social justice" through persecution, as well as the importance of Arabs and Jews understanding each other first as people.

This is the seventh year that the coalition, Together We Build, has built homes for low-income families in East King County. The group arose out of a Catholic prayer chain started after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It has grown to include 10 churches, mosques and synagogues, and this year is working at Habitat's 50-home development in Snoqualmie Ridge.

See also: Interfaith, Civic