ICCJ Women’s Conference (6-8 July 2007, Sydney Australia)


The ICCJ conference was preceded by an ICCJ Women’s Conference attended by twenty-two women, about one half being from Australia, and with a large group of Sisters of Sion. On the first day, an aboriginal woman, Elsie Heiss led the conference in looking at our own stories through the healing elements of Earth, Water and Fire. We began with an aboriginal women’s healing ceremony using the elements of pure water, fire and earth. The Shabbat was celebrated with a special meal, preceded by the evening prayer and Saturday morning was left free for attendees to rest or attend synagogue at nearby suburban Maroubra, some twenty minutes from the conference venue.

Sisters of Sion who participated in the ICCJ conference

Sisters of Sion who participated in the ICCJ Women's Conference

At the Shabbat lunch Judith Narrowe, an American Jew who now lives in Sweden gave an excellent lecture on women’s role in healing a fractured earth. She began by examining the basic assumption in the theme, that the earth or world is fractured and that if women from the different faith communities work together, they will be able to heal our fractured world. She concluded that in the throes of modernity, we are at the same time both fragmented and global beings together. Being together and being apart is our human condition. She also suggested that healing takes place in three contexts ─ within our individual selves, within our local communities and within our global community.  In each of these spheres, we are obliged to heal and make whole ─ ourselves, our communities and our fractured, hate-ridden world.

Judith posed some challenging questions. “Are we really working together?”, she asked. “Are we comfortable with each other's 'otherness' and not angry about it?” “Are we convinced that, with our differences, we are singing some of the same songs, acknowledging our common obligations to the ailing world and thereby ‘creating pathways to experiencing and wholeness (shleimut) and peace(shalom).’ ” She ended by voicing the conviction that the real challenge of the Women’s conference was women from different faiths working together for healing.

In the afternoon Josie Lacey, the founder of the Australian Women’s Interfaith Network (WIN) moderated a session on women in leadership during which people shared their experiences in various leadership roles. On Saturday evening the delegates saw the excellent Australian film, Romulus My Father, a true story which relates the fortunes of a migrant family seen through the eyes of a young boy, who grew up to become very successful, managing to acquire an excellent education, despite the difficulties of poverty and a difficult existence.

On Sunday morning, The Book of Ruth was studied together with Deborah Weissman from Jerusalem and Sr Mary Reaburn (NDS). The meeting ended just after lunch with a summing up session dealing with what women contribute to healing and what we wished to say to the ICCJ. Many felt this meeting predisposed them to participate better in the main ICCJ conference.