Orange County Women's Group Reflects Interfaith Growth

June 26, 2006

Source: The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

On June 26, 2006 The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reported, "In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Sande Hart grew increasingly disgusted by disparaging remarks some of her friends — both Jewish and not — made about Muslims. The Koran, they said, preached killing Jews and other infidels; Islam was a hate-filled religion, with few redeeming qualities. Hart, a Rancho Santa Margarita resident with two young children, said she knew in her heart that the anti-Islamic remarks were small-minded and a reflection of the overwhelming fear engendered by the terrorist attacks. But with no Muslim friends and a limited knowledge of the religion, she felt unequipped to do battle with the hate-mongers. So Hart, a longstanding supporter of multiculturalism, decided to educate herself. She and her friend, Theresa Barnett, vowed to form an interfaith group that would bring Jews, Muslims and Christians together. In June 2002, the two Orange County residents founded Sarah, a women’s group that meets monthly to dispel stereotypes, build cultural bridges and increase understanding. In less than a year, Sarah’s size has more than doubled to 42 members, made up of 18 Jews, eight Muslims, 15 Christians and one Baha’i. Because of that growth, members’ homes can barely accommodate meetings. Some future gatherings will be held in community centers... The organization — named after Abraham’s wife — is more than just an armchair salon for highly educated, liberal women. Sarah has sponsored several events to raise money for a variety of causes, including world hunger... Once a bastion of white Protestant conservatism (and former national headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan) [Orange County] now has 24 synagogues, 12 mosques, a Jain Temple and a new Buddhist Temple in Irvine. As religious diversity has flourished, so have links among the various faiths. [Bill Shane, executive director of the local branch of the National Conference for Community and Justice] estimated the county now has 25 interfaith groups, up from 20 in 2002."