Merrimack College Panel Looks at Historical Women from Three Faiths

September 23, 2006

Source: The Boston Globe

On September 23, 2006 The Boston Globe reported, "From the war in Lebanon to Pope Benedict XVI enraging Muslims by quoting a medieval criticism of Islam, conflict between religions seems to be a daily occurrence. Only the calendar, it seems, offers a note of harmony, with two holy high points in near coincidence: Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, began at sundown last night, while Ramadan, Islam's holy month of fasting, starts today. Befitting the multicultural moment, Merrimack College in North Andover hosted a panel discussion this week about three pivotal women from three of the world's major religions. Christianity's contribution, Catholic activist Dorothy Day, died within living memory and is probably the best known. Hailing from more distant times were Rebecca Gratz, a Philadelphia Jewish activist who died in 1869, and Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Prophet Mohammed's first wife, traditionally considered the first Muslim. Day stood out from the other two in another respect: The journalist and founder of the Catholic Worker Movement lived a life of voluntary poverty in emulation of the poor whom she served. Money, however, was essential to the legacies of her counterparts. Gratz came from a wealthy family, and she bankrolled several Jewish firsts: the first Jewish charity not connected to a synagogue and the first Hebrew Sunday school in the United States. Khadijah, born to an aristocratic family and inheriting business interests from two earlier husbands, gave 'unflinching support' to Mohammed, both financial and emotional, 'at the beginning of his mission,' said panelist Salma Kazmi, former assistant director of the Islamic Society of Boston."