Over the last week, we have had two very special guests at our Jewish summer camp–Father Elliot Dees and Sister Mary Ellen Coombe.
Sister Mary Ellen, a member of the Sisters of Sion, has been working with various groups in Chicago to promote respect between religions for over 20 years. She originally connected to Camp Ramah in Wisconsin through her work with Emily Soloff, the National Associate Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations of the American Jewish Committee. This is Sister Mary Ellen’s ninth summer visiting Ramah Wisconsin.
Father Elliot, a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago who serves at a parish in Glenview, has always been interested in Judaism and spent time studying at Hebrew University in Israel. His experience there opened his eyes to the importance of people of faith to be in ongoing conversation.
Both Father Elliot and Sister Mary Ellen feel that it is important to learn about other religions in order to learn more about one’s own faith and they are excited to bring that message to camp. They are working with campers in every aidah providing an opportunity to learn about Catholicism and building the foundation for a lifelong respect for people of other faith groups.
As Sister Mary Ellen says, the campers “are very curious! We always run out of time during our sessions and never run out of questions.” She also commented on how welcoming the Ramah Wisconsin community has been.
Father Elliot says that it’s becoming increasingly important that we “don’t define ourselves against each other, but with one another. People of faith share a lot of values and we can help each other live out our faith.”
Sister Mary Ellen expanded on that idea. “It’s sometimes a challenge to say who we are and not who we’re not. It’s important to learn how to be rooted in our own traditions while respecting other traditions in order to define ourselves in a positive way.”
As Sister Mary Ellen says, “If we want to build together a world of peace, we have to have relationships with each other.”