My Quest Of Faith And Love

By Celine Leduc

Part 2:

In 1995, at the age of 47, I registered for academic studies and I graduated in 1999, with a BA Honours in Religion. I studied Judaism, Christianity and Islam from an academic perspective, through an historical and philosophical lens. However, my spiritual side was hurting, it was malnourished and very sad. The Muslim world was harsh, full of rules and I had to cover my spirituality and was left with little room for freedom of thought.

One evening, I saw on television a very kindly woman who was talking about the Torah. Her name is Rebbetzin Esther Jungreiss, from New York. I started watching her show every week and my soul was being nourished. She re-ignited something inside me.

I found her address and wrote her an email, asking if she was coming to Montreal. God must have heard my prayers, because she was coming to Montreal the following week, for the first time in over 30 years. I went to her lecture, where she autographed her book for me and told me to write to her. The next morning, at breakfast, I saw her in a vision, sitting and talking with me. So, I contacted her and met her again some time later. She said that my visit to the Muslim world was part of my path that allowed me to learn something. I told the Rebbetzin I had made many mistakes and that I felt badly about them. Rebbetzin Jungreiss told me about King David, who made many mistakes, but was forgiven because he had faith in God. He wrote the psalms, the wisest books in the Bible. She turned to me and blesses me, kissed my forehead and cheeks, and wiped my tears. At that moment I felt so close to God and to her. For two weeks after her blessing I saw her in a vision every morning having breakfast with me, and just before I fell asleep.

In 1999, I entered in the Master's program at Concordia, History and Philosophy of Religion, Judaism, and Islam with a sub-focus on women. I learnt a great deal about the role of women in each tradition from a spiritual, intellectual and practical point of view. However, whenever I wrote on Jewish women, Rebbetzin Jungreiss guided my pen.

In 2001, Concordia University was experiencing problems with some radical Palestinians groups who were anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. My Jewish friends were afraid to walk in the campus wearing a Magen David or a scull-cap. I thought I had to do something. Although I had never thought of getting involved in student politics, I applied in August 2001 for the position of Vice President Advocacy and got the job. I sat on Steering and Senate and managed to work within the university to help my Jewish friends. I talked about the students' fear of anti-Semitism, and this led me working in Health and Safety. I was re-elected in 2002.

God put me in the right place, because on September 9, 2002, former Prime Minister Netanyahu was forbidden to speak at Concordia University, as direct result of actions taken by Palestinians and the extreme left, who oppose America and Israeli. I attended the conference and saw first hand how the riot started. From a peaceful gathering, it soon was filled with hatred as Palestinian student leaders were spewing hate against imperialism, the US and Israel. They then invaded our space, followed by cameras for the local television stations. They provoked students and instigated physical confrontation. Inside the university was another group, who had entered illegally the night before, and they were hurling insults at us JEWS, ZIONISTS, MURDERERS, NAZIS. They were throwing soda bottles and benches at us and tear gas was needed to calm them down.

At Health and Safety, we were asked by the Rector to look at the events of September 9 and develop policies. I knew first hand and could give a full report as to what happened outside and inside the Hall building. I also knew their tactics of intimidation as some radical Muslim groups had kicked me off a radio show. The show dealt with culture and I interviewed women from the Arabic world. They were Jewish, Christian and Muslim and spoke about culture, literature and the idea of knowing one another. I also had indigenous Canadian guests, such as Mohawks etc. In the name of freedom of speech, these radical Muslim groups tried and succeeded for a while to shut me up. I have a voice now and I will not stay quiet.

When I entered the Master's program I decided to write on Jewish women who came from the Middle East or North Africa. As a direct result of research for my term paper on Jewish women who came from Egypt I got in touch with Dr. Ada Aharoni and joined IFLAC and WSPN.

I interviewed many people for my final research, and when I told them that I had tried Islam for a while, they said: I have a cousin, a sister-in-law, a friend who became Muslim when we were in Egypt. They did it for their survival in Cairo or Alexandria. However, after they left Egypt, they all came back to their Jewish roots. One of my friends added, you can understand what we went through and some of the problems we faced.

I did, but what I learnt from them is that you can love the Muslim world, its culture and history, even if at times it is harsh and cruel. My Jewish friends from Egypt are the ones who introduced me to the complexity of the Muslim world and they gave me the gift of love, which means to know the good and the bad and never forget to remain human and open. I guess I was right all those years ago, to think that Jesus was a Jewish man and a Rabbi, since my Jewish friends taught me how to love my neighbour as myself.

I graduated and am now working to document the lives of Jewish women who come from Egypt, North Africa and the Middle East. I plan to produce video and radio documentaries, write articles about my friends, and create a forum where we can discuss, debate ideas and life and be friends.

My aim is to find a solution for peace through love, which means being honest and knowing our strengths and weaknesses.

Part 1 of Celine's Story

Articles published in HopeWays' 'News & Views' section

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