The Second Joseph Campbell Roundtable of Interfaith Peace Tales
June 4th, 2006 at B'nai Havurah Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation

by Cherie Karo Schwartz

"The world is well conducted on two spinning wheels: one that spins justice and the other that spins mercy." (from the Zohar iv, 259b; Jewish wisdom).

With the sound of a sacred bell resonating into silence, followed by three candles lit by the eldest present, so the second Joseph Campbell Roundtable on Interfaith Peace Tales began. Thirty people from varying backgrounds, faiths, cultures, and generations came together for an afternoon of sharing stories from their hearts. After the silence and the light, we brought our own names and backgrounds into the circle of story, along with a phrase each on justice. We had storytellers, mental health professionals, ministers, a rabbi, radio show coordinator, a news reporter, a nurse, computer specialist, secretary, cosmetologist, students, retirees, and others. And with this kaleidoscopic framework, the stories flowed.

There was no performance, and no set order of storytellers. This was to be a conversation, a dialogue of stories. A Hindu sacred story led the way to a dawning of the reality of justice. Then an Afghani Jewish folktale presented a candle-lit dilemma of justice sought and and the ensuing moral dilemma. Each story was greeted by the group in silence to take in the intention of the tale, then a verbal bridge was formed to the next story by another teller, linking the stories into an ongoing emerging larger experience of the theme of justice.

We moved to a personal tale from South Africa, told by someone who was not a trained storyteller, but who carries her memories with tender care. In her early childhood innocence, she helped bring justice, literacy, and freedom to a Black worker. A brief and deep folktale followed with a theme of awakening justice. This led to a literary tale of those strong enough to walk away from injustice. And so the stories flowed, from personal to sacred to folk to literary and beyond. Each story strung on the strand of those before it broadened our vision of justice and the possibilities of peace in the world. We were led onward to witnessing Civil Rights abuses, and Christian congregants dying to save others. Then we heard, among others, tales of domestic justice revealed through therapy, harsh realities of injustice, an Irish sibling story of juvenile injustice reframed in maturity, a personal recollection of complicated medical emergency, a contemporary news story of Muslims in war helping to save 'the other', and a teaching tale of Jesus being questioned about the balance of justice meted out to others.

Each tale shared in the brief shared two-hour timeframe shimmered with the possibilities of bringing, creating, and restoring justice and balance in the world. Each in its own way helps to restore peace. In this new format of story-sharing, there was no set order, no performance, no microphone, no formality. People sat in the circle of story and shared from their hearts as their hearts moved them, and as they could link their story to the ones before. The stories flowed like waves upon sand, and they moved us with them . Not everyone told a tale. Some were there as story listeners, as witnesses to the emerging verbal and visceral understanding of justice and peace.

Just as the time for closing was drawing near, the stories slowed, andwe brought the afternoon full circle with the sound and then the silence of the bell. Then our elder extinguished the candles with our intention. As the light went out in the candelabra, the spark of justice and peace was brought deep into each of our hearts. Our task is to take this spark of story out into the world to continue doing the sacred work of peace. We ended with communal foods and drink and deep conversation, fed well by our laughter and tears and connection through story.

We go forth with the hope that another faith tradition will create the next Roundtable of Interfaith Peace Tales soon, and that we can open to an even wider base of faiths, traditions and cultures to hear, experience, and share our stories with spirit and soul.

Special thanks and gratitude to the Joseph Campbell Foundation, Sydney Solis, Congregation B'nai Havurah, Cherie Karo Schwartz, and all who made the afternoon of story possible. Special gratitude to Rabbi Rami Shapiro for his vision of conversing in story rather than presentational performance.


READ JEAN TORKELSON'S ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS ARTICLE ABOUT THE EVENT: "Torkelson: Storytellers share aim for peace" -- June 5th, 2006, page 5A

Cherie Karo Schwartz is a sacred storyteller, author, and educator. She interweaves stories, traditions, and people into celebrations of spirit. Cherie has captivated audiences with imagination and heart for over three decades, telling and teaching throughout the country and abroad, with all ages and in such diverse settings as organizational gatherings, conferences, synagogues, many other places of worship, museums, camps, schools and universities.


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