Judy Marx: Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto shows we will depend on each other to survive

color headshot06by Judy Marx, Executive Director of the Interfaith Community Initiatives

I am the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. My dad, who turned 90 just a few weeks ago, rarely spoke about his experiences during the war. My brothers and I knew the rough outline: he grew up in Frankfurt, Germany, stayed there until his deportation to a camp, was liberated, and a year later came to the US with his family. It wasn’t until his first granddaughter was born that we persuaded him to tell his whole story.

In his memoir, my dad revealed what he believed allowed him to survive. It wasn’t that he was “better” than anyone else or more clever or more devout. He told us that survivors were “lucky,” not good or bad. He saw that there was no difference between those who survived and those who were murdered. Some people were lucky and many more were not.

Several of the turning points in my father’s stories are moments when individuals who happened to have the opportunity to help, did so. It was my dad’s lucky encounters with people who were actively doing the right thing that allowed him to survive. People who may have thought of themselves as good, but were passive and did nothing, only helped the oppressors.

I believe that one of the lessons of the Holocaust is that we need to work harder to create our own good luck.

As I write this, a group of World Pilgrims (Christians, Muslims and Jews) are traveling together in Guatemala. A program of Interfaith Community Initiatives, World Pilgrims journeys offer opportunities for people of faith, clergy and lay leaders, to really get to know each other. A World Pilgrims experience is a sacred journey that deepens each participant’s own faith as she/he gains appreciation for the commonalities and differences in other religious traditions. Mostly, pilgrimages encourage real friendships that cross faith, race, gender, and even political divides.

The friendships that develop over the course of a Pilgrimage are lasting. We support each other when times are tough and celebrate the good things. The honest discussions can be challenging, and sometimes feelings get hurt, but we all recognize that our friendship is stronger when we can agree to disagree. Since the first pilgrimage in 2002, every time a community feels threatened, World Pilgrims have been there to do the right thing: protecting a mosque, mourning a massacre, standing against injustice.

I am honored to have been a member of the group that helped develop Atlanta’s Interfaith Manifesto. While the words of the Manifesto itself are important, to me, the real value is the list of those who endorse it. I look at that list and I feel very good about Atlanta. While the list of well-known community leaders who signed on is impressive; I find more comfort in the many, many names I don’t recognize. The growing list of people actively stating that they believe in Interfaith Cooperation, respect and celebrate our community’s religious diversity, and will take a stand to support those principles is hopeful and inspiring.

The Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto is a sign to the world that we will not depend on luck to survive. We will depend on each other.

In March 2015, Judy Marx was named the first Executive Director of Interfaith Community Initatives, Inc. (ICI). In this position, she oversees ICI’s many programs, including World Pilgrims™, Atlanta Interfaith Leaders Forum, and Immersion Experiences, as well as represents interfaith efforts at community events and works with faith leadership across the city.

Prior to joining ICI, for three years Judy consulted with nonprofit organizations to improve their fundraising, community relations and leadership development. Judy spent 12-½ years with American Jewish Committee where she served as the Atlanta Director, and where she was the Founding Director of the award-winning Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. She has remained involved in the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, co-chairing the Film Evaluation Committee for two years and currently co-chairing the festival’s Community Engagement Committee. Also, in 2011 and 2013, Judy produced ReelAbilities ATL, Atlanta’s only disabilities film festival, working under the auspices of Georgia Community Support & Solutions.