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Cecilia Fox

Member, Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center, Current Chair, Interfaith Study Group Planning Committee

Life drew me into interfaith friendships early on. I was three when my mother left London with me and my baby sister to escape the bombing as World War II began in 1939. My physician father had left with the British 8th Army. No other Jewish families lived in Kettering, and our new world was secular yet interfaith.

My friends were next door neighbor children, and classmates from a broad range of church backgrounds, yet we provided the only other diversity, for it was after WWII that immigration brought rich ethnic diversity to the UK. In that small industrial town, most people were Church of England members, or lapsed. With no separation of church and state, we learned and sang Christian prayers and hymns in public primary school.

Among my mother’s long-term friends was Miss Mary Jane Pink, an older Christian Scientist, deeply involved in community outreach. My middle name is Ruth, and I found the biblical Ruth in the book, Women of the Bible, she gave me. Other dear friends were a Quaker family–war resisters and quiet activists, who gave me their daughter’s dresses as she outgrew them, during war-long clothes rationing. I was nine when we returned to London. Throughout my life, I have had close friends of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, including a devout Irish Catholic friend who entered convent to become a nun after college.

When my friend and colleague, Betsy Perry, called seven years ago to invite me, I was delighted to join the Interfaith Study Group planning committee as Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center’s representative. A highlight of what the group means to me, is the Sunday evening in April 2013, when Maher Hathout, M.D., of the Islamic Center, Anne Breck Peterson of All Saints Church, and I, from the Pasadena Jewish Temple, each read our own and some other poetry. That gathering, graced with the distinguished Dr. Hathout’s moving poem on the power of silence in the hardest of times, continues to inspire me, as he inspired so many.

We bring our own perspective as each of us works to help heal the world in our own way. We gain insights in sharing common threads, and are enriched by new friendships. My commitment to peace, to civil, human, and immigrant rights, to shelter for the homeless, to freedom from hunger, to a living wage, and to international justice and equity, is fortified by my involvement in the Interfaith Study Group and each of its three institutions.

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