The humble date (tamar / tamr) is a fruit from North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, and represents so much to so many: agriculture, food, sharing, sweetness and friendship. In Islam, dates symbolize hospitality and peace – they were a favored food of the Prophet Muhammad, and are mentioned more than any other fruit in the Qur’an. In Judaism, dates represent peace and righteousness – as one of the “seven species” named in the Torah, they are understood to hold special medicinal and spiritual properties, and to bring blessing and healing.
House of Dates (bayt tamar / al-tamr) is an ongoing series presented by the Center for Multi-Religious Studies at Starr King School for the Ministry, in partnership with Muslim and Jewish voices from diverse backgrounds and histories. The series offers opportunities for deep learning, multi-religious worship, and chaplaincy training, demonstrating a commitment by Jews, Muslims, and allies to counter Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and advocate for peace and justice in Palestine / Israel.
Join us in the House of Dates on the cusp of Ramadan to steep in sacred conversation, prayer reflection and renewal. We’ll be guided by Sufi poet and devotional artist Sukina Noor, toward honing and honoring our particular ways of showing up in this revolutionary moment.
Sukina Noor is an internationally renowned poet, playwright, workshop facilitator and educator who plays an intrinsic role within the British Muslim creative community. Sukina facilitates in-person and online writing workshops toward awakening the voice of the heart. Her new book of poetry is Love and Longing: Yearning for the Face of God. Sukina’s academic focus is on Sufi mystic poets from West Africa, and she serves as a muqedma, a spiritual guide and teacher in the Tijani Sufi lineage.
The first House of Dates program was a multi-religious Jum’ah/Shabbat worship service in coordination with Makam Shekhina multi-religious Muslim & Jewish community held on Friday, December 15, at 11 am PT / 2 pm ET. The service was followed by a discussion on weaving multi-religious worship and community.
Our second meeting was an intimate conversation with renowned Sufi author and spiritual teacher Omid Safi and Arab Jewish mystic, scholar, and artist Hadar Cohen. In conversation with House of Dates conveners Dr. Som Pourfarzaneh and Taya Mâ Shere, our speakers explored what guides their leadership at this time of crisis in Palestine / Israel, and considered what is distinct about spiritual practice, leadership and community in times of crisis.
Hadar Cohen is an Arab Jewish scholar, mystic and artist. She is the founder of Malchut, a spiritual skill building school teaching Jewish mysticism and direct experience of God. She is a 10th-generation Jerusalemite with lineage roots also in Syria, Kurdistan, Iraq and Iran. Hadar weaves the spiritual with the political through performance art, writing, music and ritual. Her podcast, Hadar’s Web, features community conversations on spirituality, healing, justice, and art.
Omid Safi is a Sufi teacher, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University, a columnist for On Being, and a leading Muslim public intellectual appearing often on news outlets including PBS, BBC and CNN. He guides journeys in Turkey, Morocco and beyond and offers online courses open to spiritual seekers of all backgrounds. Hehas a podcast called Sufi Heart, and his books include Memories of Muhammad and Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition.
Taya Mâ Shere plays passionately in the realm of transformative ritual, embodied vocalization and ancestor reverence, and is Assistant Professor of the Practice of Organic Multireligious Ritual at Starr King School for the Ministry. She is co-founder and Rav Kohenet of Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute and co-author of The Hebrew Priestess: Ancient and New Visions of Jewish Women’s Spiritual Leadership and Siddur HaKohanot: A Hebrew Priestess Prayerbook. Taya Mâ hosts the acclaimed Jewish Ancestral Healing podcast and offers online courses in Embodied Presence, Jewish Ancestral Healing, Pleasure as Prayer and the Path of Practice. Taya Mâ is the creator of the Liberate Your Seder Haggadeck, co-creator of The Omer Oracle and Divining Pleasure decks, and her Hebrew Goddess chant albums — This Bliss, Wild Earth Shebrew, Halleluyah All Night and Torah Tantrika — have been heralded as “cutting-edge mystic medicine music.” With Sheikh Dr. Ibrahim Baba Farajaje, SKSM provost of blessed memory, Taya Mâ co-founded a multireligious Jewish and Sufi Muslim spiritual community committed to counter-oppressive devotion – their new album Makam Shekhina is a weaving of Ibrahim Baba’s teachings with their pulsing Hebrew & Arabic prayer. www.taya.ma | @tayatransforms
Dr. Som Pourfarzaneh is the Assistant Professor of Islamic and Digital Media Studies and Director of the Center for Multi-Religious Studies at Starr King School for the Ministry. He holds a Ph.D. in Cultural and Historical Studies of Religions from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, and was part of the first cohort to graduate from Starr King’s Master of Arts in Social Change (MASC) program in its inaugural year. He also holds a B.A. in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Pourfarzaneh’s academic work focuses on Islam and Media, Muslims in America, Anthropology of Islam, Digital and Social Media, Social Justice, Cultural Production, Interreligious Dialogue, and Multi-Religious Identity. Outside of the academy, he has also written and worked for high-profile entertainment companies and editorial websites such as Electronic Arts, Perfect World Entertainment, Modus Games, and MMORPG.com, and is the author of four books and seven games.