by Mary Eshet
If the sky is clear on the night of March 22, the smallest sliver of the moon will be visible, commencing a lunar month that holds great significance for Christians, Muslims, and Jews – and for us at the Greenspon Center. Just as the new moon holds great promise of growing light, people of these three religions will celebrate renewal, freedom, and hope.
Ramadan, the holiest of months for Muslims, commemorates the first revelation of the Qur’an to the prophet Mohammed. The annual observance of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Throughout the month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown in order to encourage spiritual self-reflection and focus on generosity, learning, and holiness.
The timing of Easter, perhaps the holiest of Christian holidays, is also based on the moon. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Spring Equinox (no wonder it is hard to keep track of!). This year, Easter falls on April 9, in the month of Nisan and Ramadan. Christians will celebrate renewal, salvation, and the triumph of good over evil.
For the Jewish calendar, this new moon marks the beginning of the month of Nisan. As the moon grows larger it builds to a full moon on Nisan 15, when Jews around the world will celebrate Passover and remember when the Jewish people were liberated from Egypt. It is a time to be thankful and also to recommit to fighting all forms of oppression that still weigh on our world today.
At the Greenspon Center, we fight oppression through our social justice programs. We are thrilled that this month our first participants in the Social Justice and Community Organizing Certificate program will complete their course. The nine-week program trains and equips participants with political education and practical skills to effectively organize for social change. The program will culminate with a retreat and community event on April 15.
Also in the month of Nisan, beginning the evening of April 17, we observe Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a sad day, and the moon will be waning, its darkness growing on the 27th day of the lunar calendar. At the Greenspon Center, we are committed to “never forget” the darkness of genocide that has fallen on too many peoples of the world, so that we can work together to ensure it doesn’t happen again. In March, 17 North Carolina educators were the first graduates of the Center’s 6-month Certification in Holocaust Pedagogy Program.
How unfathomable that three great religions celebrate freedom, renewal and spiritual goodness in the same month that we remember one of the greatest atrocities of all time. May Easter, Ramadan, and Passover fill us all with hope, community, commitment, and faith that light will overcome darkness. As the moon grows smaller in the second half of the month, we will remember the small sliver of light from the new moon and how the light grew, shining on all of us and beckoning us to share our own light.[Image from Unsplash by Niklas Ohlrogge]