Symposium 2012: “Living in the Differences: Counter-Oppressive, Multi-Religious The( )logies in the 21st Century”

“So, Come, Come, Lovers of Leaving,

Come across the threshold into living in the differences;

So, Come, Come: Let us build sacred, vibrant, fun,
deliciously organic, (g)locally-grown and sustainable communities
in the Caravan of LOVE!”

These words from Provost Ibrahim Farajaje’s opening sermon at Starr King’s inaugural Symposium “Living in the Differences” captured the vision for our three-day “urban retreat” kicking off the 2012-2013 academic year.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Awarded Sacrae Theologiae Doctor

Symposium attracted over 500 registered participants. Students, grads, and members of the public, gathered for multi-religious worship and teaching sessions with SKSM faculty and honoree Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement and Professor Emeritus at Temple and Naropa universities.

First Unitarian Church of Oakland hosted the sold-out closing ceremony where Reb Zalman was awarded the Sacrae Theologiae Doctor. At the ceremony President Rebecca Parker asked of Reb Zalman “Starr King confers the Master of Divinity; has anyone ever mastered Divinity?” to which the Rabbi replied “Some have mastered the service of divinity.”

Unique Learning Experiences: Chavruta and Theater of the Oppressed

Students engaged in Chavruta from the Jewish Rabbinic tradition of studying and discussing texts in small groups. These faculty-led sessions examined prophetic writings of Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi and Audre Lorde. Students were also treated to Adjunct faculty instructor Jiwon Chung’s lively session of exercises using theater as a vehicle for personal and social change.

Reb Zalman and his spouse Rebbitzen Eve surprised participants one evening with an unplanned visit where the Rabbi’s 88th Birthday was celebrated with a kosher birthday cake and a Rebbe’s Tisch [Rabbi’s table], a sharing of songs, stories and profound teachings.


“As I start this new chapter in my life, my mind continues to drift back to the teachings by Rabbi Zalman that resonated within me with such force and transformed me into a different person. His teaching on humanity’s need to transcend religious conflicts and aggressions arising from the ‘reptile brain’ was a profound moment.”

– First-year M.Div., Ahmed Hassanein

“I found it profoundly musical. People sang and danced while the [microphone] problem was getting found and fixed. I whispered to the person next to me that I wasn’t looking forward to the microphones working because I didn’t want the music to stop. But, even after, their hearts seemed to keep on singing; the music did not stop.”

– Second-year M.A.S.C., Hassaun Ali Jones-Bey

“Starr King provided a pluralistic, liberal religious and celebratory container for a sacred meeting between serious practitioners of Renewal Judaism, Sufism, Unitarian Universalism, progressive Islam and other religious traditions. Each was able to pay homage to the other, but also to pray, learn, dance and sing together across the lines that traditionally divide one practice from another.”

– Symposium Event Planner, Instructor, Administrator, Noach Dzmura


Announcing Starr King Symposium 2012

Dear Starr King Friend,

I’m delighted to announce that Starr King’s first Symposium will be held in August 21-23, 2012: Living in the Differences: Counter-Oppressive, Multi-Religious The( )logies in the 21st Century. This urban retreat, led by our Provost Dr. Ibrahim Farajajé, inaugurates a new structure in our educational approach: an annual gathering of our entire student body, faculty, staff and trustees for three days of learning, ritual, celebration, food, music, community-building and service. Starr King graduates are also warmly invited to participate, at no cost. We ask that all participants register by August 1 at this link: (registration closed). Several public events in connection with the Symposium are open to all.


Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi is our honored guest teacher for the Symposium and is receiving an honorary doctorate from Starr King at the closing ceremonies. His lectures and the closing ceremony are open to the public. Reb Zalman stands at the borders of two traditions: Judaism and Sufism. He is both a Rabbi and a Sufi Shaykh, and has participated in significant conversation and meditation with the Dalai Lama. With his colleague Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, he founded the nationwide spiritual movement now known as Jewish Renewal.


With leadership from Starr King’s core faculty, the Symposium will engage participants in a multi-religious exploration of synergies between the arts, spiritual practice, ritual, the study of sacred texts, and activism for social justice.  Starr King’s adjunct professor Jiwon Chung, artistic director of Kairos Theater Ensemble, will lead us in Theater of the Oppressed work.  We will spend time with the leaders of Beloved Café and learn about the imagination leading to new forms of religious community.   Acclaimed writer and director Amir Soltani, with whom Starr King has a long association through our MASC program, will host a screening and discussion of the latest cut of his move “Redemption,” on the recycling community in Oakland.

The Symposium can be taken for 1.5 units of credit and financial support to assist with travel costs is available for Starr King incoming and continuing degree students who register and apply for aid by July 20th. Home hospitality is available as well.

This first-ever Symposium is being created on less than an “organic shoestring” budget, but we are blessed by contributions of many kinds. Thank you to our co-sponsors: The Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union, Kehilla Congregation, Chochmat HaLev, and the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California.

If you can’t be present but would like to provide financial aid to help a student be able to attend, or to support the Symposium with a gift of any kind, including volunteer time, click here to visit the Symposium web pages to indicate your offering.

Your support for this important gathering –by your prayers, your presence, your gifts and/or your service– is greatly appreciated.

In grace and gratitude,
Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker  President and Professor of Theology