Frequently Asked Questions
Why did you start Daughters of Abraham?
The Daughters of Abraham was the inspiration of our founder, Edie Howe. On September 11, 2001, Edie attended an interfaith service at First Church in Cambridge and sat with Jewish, Christian and Muslim women. Looking around at these women she wondered what she could do to respond to the actions of the terrorists. She decided to form a book chapter of women from the Abrahamic faiths. From that initial insight, many groups have been founded in Massachusetts and other states, the original group having met continuously since September, 2002. Edie died of breast cancer in the summer of 2008. Her inspired idea lives on.
Why do you name your group after Abraham?
We have chosen to name ourselves after Abraham as our father to emphasize what we have in common. Abraham is considered by many to be the first monotheist. Since Jews, Christians and Muslims are all inheritors of the faith of Abraham, we claim him as our father. We could have named ourselves after our mothers, Sarah and Hagar, but that would highlight our differences. Instead, we have chosen our common father and by naming ourselves after Abraham we are saying that there is more holding us together than dividing us.
Are there Sons of Abraham groups?
At present, we are not aware of any Sons of Abraham groups. We are available, however, to assist men in forming a Sons of Abraham group. We will gladly share our model, our book lists and our experiences with them and help them get started. However, we strongly believe that conversation among women is different from conversation among men or in mixed-gender groups. The ground rules for a Sons of Abraham group may turn out to be quite different.
How is this different from interfaith dialogue groups?
We see ourselves not as a dialogue group but as a book group focused on discussions of books on our own religions. We engage with the books and poetry we read to explore the meanings, shape and practice of our own and one’s another’s religious experience. We are not an academic study group nor are we official representatives of our religious tradition or theological opinions. Reading and discussing books together creates a “level playing field” for all the Daughters to share their thoughts and personal experience with one another. Our goal is to offer one another a window into our living experience of faith.
Who may join?
Daughters of Abraham groups are open to Jewish, Christian and Muslim women for whom their religion informs their daily life. We welcome all women who self-identify as members of these three faiths and who are willing to share how this identity — with all its nuances and cultural diversity — adds to the shape and texture of her life. Since we speak in our discussions about our own experience in the observance and practice of our religion, we welcome women who see religion through the lens of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim texts and the lived experience of being Jewish, Christian, or Muslim.
Why is membership limited to just these three faiths?
In order to have as much common ground as possible for our book discussions, we have chosen to be a group of women only from these three Abrahamic religions.Our discussions of how a religious tradition is lived is central to our mission.We acknowledge and respect that there are other revelations and texts within the Abrahamic traditions. There are women who accept further revelations within Abrahamic traditions, such as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Christian), Christian Scientists (Christian), Messianic Jews (Jewish), B’hai (Muslim); these women fall outside the scope of our groups.Similarly, Unitarian Universalists fall outside our scope of Abrahamic faiths. If, however, a woman self-identifies as a Jewish Unitarian or a Christian Unitarian or a Muslim Unitarian, they are welcome to join Daughters of Abraham.
How can I join or start a group?
If you are interested in joining a group listed on our web site you can contact the group directly through our web site. If you do not know whether there is a group in your area, you can contact us by email and we will tell you whether there is a group meeting near you. If there is no group in your area and you would like to start a group, you can contact us by email. We will provide you with information which will walk you step-by-step through the process. We will also give you the names and email addresses of women in your geographical area who have expressed interest in joining a group and might be interested in beginning a new group. We will also provide you with a mentor/liaison who can be available to you as you begin a group to answer your questions, provide guidance and respond to your concerns and challenges.
What is the general structure of your meetings?
We meet monthly. Many groups prefer to meet in the same place, but that decision can be made by the group, once it is established. We try to have space that is non-sectarian, comfortable and easily accessible by public transportation. This place can be a private home or a public space. Our meetings are for two hours. The first 30 minutes or so are devoted to social time and community building, gathered around kosher/halal food brought by the members. We then spend about an hour or an hour and a quarter on the discussion of what we have read. Members take on the role of timekeeper and leader of the discussion. We generally use the last 15 minutes of the meeting for announcements of general interest and decisions about what to read next and who will bring food for the next meeting.
Do you have ground rules?
We have agreed to speak respectfully to one another; not to monopolize the conversation; to speak from personal experience rather than making sweeping statements and to ask questions of members of other religions rather than making assumptions about them. Read our “Ground Rules” on the Our Model page.
How do you choose books?
Members suggest books at the meetings. We keep a list of book suggestions. Periodically we review all the suggestions, then, by consensus, we choose the books we will read. In some groups leaders take a more active role in selecting books. If anyone strongly objects to reading a book (especially someone whose religion is described in the book) we do not read it in the group. See our book list >.
What kinds of books are appropriate for your meetings?
We read books that deal with our religion and the practice and experience of living as a religious person. Books can be of various genres: fiction, memoirs, history, poetry, etc. The common thread is that they help us talk together about our experience and help us learn about one another and our religions. Books which describe the lives of people, great and humble, whose lives are changed by religious practice or driven by religious ethics make good conversation-starters. How-to books about practice can also be used. Some groups have benefitted by books on culture and history, to fill in our gaps in cultural awareness. Books that highlight derogatory stereotypes or religion as a destructive force do not help our conversations and therefore should only be read by groups that have matured to very high levels of trust, or not read at all. We usually rotate our book selections monthly- a Jewish book, a Christian book, a Muslim book. We include in this rotation books which cross religious lines and deal with two or three of our religions.
Do you have any suggestions of books to begin with?
We have developed a list for the first year and posted it on our book lists page. These are recommendations only based on our collective experience. The books in the first year reading list help to build a common foundation for deeper understanding and discussion in future meetings.
Why do you avoid politics?
Our mission as Daughters of Abraham is to increase our respect for all of the Abrahamic religions by reading books that teach us about each other’s religions and help us learn from each other about the practice of our respective faiths. We are committed to building relationships with each other. For this reason we choose books that help us fulfill our mission. Understanding world events is not our goal; rather, our goal is to show that all Abrahamic faiths can be a force behind a variety of lives lived well and honorably. It is not that we seek to exclude politics, it is that politics can also emphasize the things that divide us. We prefer to focus on what unites us and deepens our knowledge and respect for each other. Political discussion groups are very important, but they are not part of our mission as Daughters of Abraham. If political issues arise as a result of what we are reading we discuss them in the context of the book.
What do you do besides reading books?
The mission and focus of Daughters of Abraham chapters is to read and discuss books together. However, upon occasion we eat a meal together, share poetry, and music which is of religious significance to us, and watch films on religious topics. We also invite group members to attend lectures, religious celebrations, outside of normal meeting times on a voluntary basis. Daughters’ groups in the Boston area gather once a year to meet one another, share a meal, and learn more about Daughters’ groups locally and nationally. The Daughters of Abraham also organize interfaith trips for our members. We have taken trips to Spain, Jerusalem, and Turkey. We visit sites important to our three religions and reflect together about what we are seeing and experiencing.
Do you ever disagree? Are there problems?
We occasionally disagree and try to resolve our difficulties with respect and in the moment. We encourage members to speak up when something has offended or upset them so that we can resolve difficulties in the group. Rarely have we experienced problems across the faith traditions. If there are disagreements, they tend to be among the members of one faith, e.g. Catholics and Protestants, Reform and Conservative Jews. Since we have ground rules to which we adhere, problems and disagreements are only occasional, and usually easily resolved.