An unusual invitation came to me in 2019: to write an article about hate speech based on sacred texts for an Arab magazine. The topic itself was inviting to me and, even with the delivery date very close, I wrote an article and sent it, without it being clear at that moment who would be my interlocutor/reader. Shortly thereafter, confirmation of acceptance for publication and an invitation to speak at the 14th Doha Conference on Interfaith Dialogue arrived.
I had little information about the organisation, but I thought to myself: if you read my article, which has a provocative style, and still took the next step towards getting closer, I felt certain tranquillity and euphoria at the possibility of going to a part of the Middle East that was unknown to me – and therefore full of fantasy about what to expect from this meeting.
At the time of boarding, in March 2020, the news of the closing of borders and consequent postponement of the event to an uncertain date arrived. Two years passed and, finally, a new contact was resumed, renewing the invitation. Butterflies in the stomach is a pseudonym for fear of the unknown, accompanied by an expectation and a desire to know.
In Hebrew, in addition to the word דיאלוג (dialog), which is nothing more than the transliteration of its Greek version that combines two words – DIÀ (in Greek διά = between, through) + LOGOS (in Greek λóγος = sense, reason, word) – the expression in Hebrew (Du-Siach) דּוּ שִׂיחַ, which is also translated as dialogue, emphasises the dual relationship between two narratives, two discourses, two courses of ideas that sometimes meet, sometimes distance.
But the experience of the encounter revealed to me another aspect of the word that is close to another that elevates the dialogue to a dimension: דו קיום. Du-kium, translated as coexistence, instead of focusing on the divergent narratives of two discourses, focuses on an existence that only makes sense in the encounter with the other.
On the whole, but with an eye on the micro, I saw myself as a minority within the minority (the only woman in a delegation of 9 Jews, being the smallest quorum at the meeting). And in the same set, expanding the look, I saw myself as part of an existence that is only possible through the recognition of the other, the different, who is my similar.
An honour to be a voice for Reform Judaism in Latin America at a world forum of religions. A lot of learning, which strengthens not only my rabbinical training and my work oriented towards a plural and relevant Jewish education, but also my faith in humanity.
Kelita Cohen is a psychologist, PhD in human development processes, rabbinate student at the Ibero-American Institute of Reform Rabbinical Training (IIFRR) and executive director of the Jewish Academy of CIP.