Purim came early when SCoJeC facilitated an interfaith Bible study session of the Book of Esther hosted by Scotland’s ethnic minority umbrella organisation, Bemis.
Taking as his theme the similarities and differences between the biblical books of Esther and Ruth, Daniel Taub, the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, pointed out that while both narratives take place primarily outside the land of Israel, and neither explicitly refers to divine intervention, Esther’s story goes from rags to riches, while Ruth’s, initially at any rate, has the opposite trajectory. The background of Esther is the aftermath of the Jewish people’s exile from Judea to Babylon, while Ruth takes place shortly after they had settled the land in the days of the Judges. As a lawyer, he said he was interested in the role law plays in both narratives: it is the ancient Jewish laws that farmers must leave gleanings for the poor that save Ruth from starvation and lead to her marriage, while Esther has to find a way to bypass the unalterable “laws of the Medes and Persians” in order to prevent Haman’s planned antisemitic genocide.
The event was attended by representatives of the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference, the Free Presbyterian Church, and the Scottish Episcopal Church, as well as members of the Jewish community, university chaplains, and academic theologians. Rami Ousta, the Chief Executive of Bemis, referred to the long-standing and close links between Bemis and SCoJeC, and said that, "Guided by its serious commitment to promoting peace, equality, and dialogue in Scotland and beyond, Bemis was pleased to assist in facilitating this important interfaith event which aimed at promoting peace and positive community relations among the diverse ethnic, cultural, faith, and wider communities."
Thanking SCoJeC and Bemis for their initiative in putting on the event, the Rev Stuart MacQuarrie, Glasgow University Chaplain, said, “Yesterday you were an Ambassador, a diplomat representing and furthering the interests of your state; today, you are with us a fellow human being on a quest for truth and meaning. Esther and Ruth are remarkable women who speak to our shared humanity. They tell us of how together we can create conditions in which humans are able to flourish – of where Jewish people can be Jewish, Christian people can be Christian, Muslim people can be Muslim, and atheist or agnostic people can be atheist or agnostic. Esther and Ruth’s purpose in life was for each to be herself, the person God called her to be– not to be someone else, but for each to be herself.”
The meeting was chaired by SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski, who is also the immediate past Convener of Bemis.