There are many reasons people have dinner parties, but how many
are given for the express purpose of bringing together people of
different faiths for an open dialogue about religious belief? This
is the principle behind the Anti-Defamation League Interfaith
Committee’s Sustenance for Strangers: Breaking Barriers by Breaking
Bread program, which asserts that “all cultures include meals as a
basic venue for establishing and promoting communication.” The
Sustenance for Strangers dinner I attended was held at the home of
Marilyn Gilbert and Nathan Rundlett, and it was a fascinating and
powerful experience for everyone involved.

The group was 12 strong, and things got down to business in
short order. As the introductions proceeded around our circle, an
amazing range of backgrounds and experiences came to light. There
were two atheists, each with very different stories, and both with
flashing wit and hearts of gold. There were Christians of every
denomination, from lapsed Catholics and Nazarenes to committed
current churchgoers and even a Westmont faculty member. One man, a
hairdresser, follows a guru whom he has traveled to visit in India
12 times now. Another woman who was brought up in a conservative
Christian household described her experiences living with a Muslim
man and moving to the Middle East.

When the whole thing was over, and the last delicious morsel of
dessert had been consumed, there was a feeling of satisfaction that
had nothing to do with the fine food. Something wonderful had
happened — each of us had found ourselves anew through the act of
revealing our deepest feelings and beliefs to a group of
sympathetic strangers.

For more information about Sustenance for Strangers, call Julie
Saltoun or Amy Frey at the ADL office at 564-6670, or Marilyn
Gilbert, the co-chair of the Interfaith Committee, at 967-7183.

— Charles Donelan


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