Rabbi Amy Eilberg
Spiritual Director, Peace and Justice Educator, Teacher of Mussar, and Author
About the Book
From Enemy to Friend shows how ancient Jewish traditions can inspire personal reconciliation and peacebuilding in our lives and in our world.
From Enemy to Friend blends ancient Jewish sacred texts on peacebuilding, real life descriptions of conflict engagement—interpersonal, interreligious, intra-communal, and international—and contemporary conflict theory. The interweaving of personal story, sacred text, and theory demonstrates how relationships can move from estrangement and wounding, entrenched bigotry and fear, to positive, engaged encounter.
What emerges is a portrait of peacemaking as a spiritual practice that can guide the lives of faithful people seeking peace in their lives and in the world. After exploring this theme in the contexts of interreligious dialogue, struggle within the Jewish community itself, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, From Enemy to Friend concludes with practical disciplines to cultivate the qualities of soul essential to the art of pursuing peace.
Published by Orbis Books, April 2014
One has to be impressed by the way this book combines in a masterful way intellectual knowledge and lived experience, wisdom and readability. It is in itself a resource for thinking about peace and peace building for all individuals. But it can also be a powerful peace-making tool for groups and congregations whose individual members are open to exploring their own inner conflicts and to bringing their newly found inner peace to bear on broader conflicts.
Read more in Claritas Journal of Dialogue and Culture
This is at one and the same time a highly personal account of the process of peacemaking as well as a more academic description of what such a process requires. . . . There is an evident systematic development to this volume. Overall it is fundamentally rooted in Eilberg’s deep-seated conviction that biblical and post-biblical Jewish religious texts have applicability to contemporary personal and social conflict situations. She quotes directly from a fair number of such texts. Eilberg is not simplistic in this regard. She realizes that such religious texts cannot be introduced into discussions of contemporary conflicts without a measure of sophistication about the dynamics of hatred and anger and the techniques that have proven useful in resolving certain situations. . . . Overall Eilberg’s book offers extremely useful techniques for peacebuilding by religious leaders, both lay and ordained.
John T. Pawlikowski, OSM
Catholic Theological Union Chicago, IL
The greatest virtue of Eilberg's book, to my mind, is that it reminds us yet again of a profound and difficult lesson: we cannot hope to make the world right unless we act to right ourselves. We have no chance of living without grudges or vengeance if we are afraid, unsatisfied with our lot, or always on the lookout for ways of gaining advantage over others. If we don't want to rely entirely on God, "Who makes peace in the heavens," to make peace on earth as well, but are ready to accept the responsibility of doing our part in that effort, then we had best heed Eilberg's warning that the work is hard and will not come as a matter of course. Particular habits of mind and behavior are required. "[The] inner work of peace-building" means nothing less than "to transform an enemy into a friend, to move from hatred to caring, from suspicion and fear, beyond tolerance, to embrace of the other."
Arnold Eisen, Chancellor
Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Amy brings to her work high emotional intelligence and psychological sophistication. She unself-righteously advocates for kindness, compassion, generosity, curiosity, and the softening and opening of the heart in all tough and contentious interactions with individuals and groups even as she advocates for courage, clarity, determination, and boldness in speaking and acting upon one’s own truth. Amy's voice is deeply Jewish, and she utilizes a wide array of classic Jewish texts with sensitivity and skill as she lays out the necessary ground-work of peace-making, to which she has devoted her life. I hope this book will be translated into Hebrew and Arabic, as it would open up new possibilities for peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.
Rabbi John Rosove
Temple Israel of Hollywood, CA
When you talk to Rabbi Amy Eilberg, you can tell she is really paying attention — deeply, thoughtfully. She calls the practice “compassionate listening,” and it’s at the heart of the peace-building work she’s been doing for decades, itself the subject of her inspiring new book, “From Enemy to Friend: Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace.”. . .
Yes, she told me, compassionate listening is work. It’s not about being polite, or feeling sorry for the other person. It is, she explained, “rigorous, respectful discourse,” where you articulate your own position and then open your heart to what the other person is saying, to conduct an authentic search for the greater truth.
J., The Jewish News Weekly
In addition to an account of her own experience with interreligious dialogue, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and dialogue between Jews on Israel, Eilberg brings to her discussion of conflict and peace in the Jewish tradition a wealth of rabbinic insight. Her analysis is not, however, dominated by a scholarly perspective. Nor, in her examination of conflict in and involving the Jewish community, does she allow her understanding of conflict or communications theory to predominate. Eilberg brings them together, as a practical answer to the commandment of Psalm 34 to “seek peace and pursue it,” creating a useful guide for the Jewish peacebuilder.
Rabbi Chana Thompson Shor
Eilberg, the first woman ordained as a rabbi in Conservative Judaism, has produced a practical guide to fulfillment of the Jewish religious commandment to “pursue peace”—not just for personal piety, but to become an effective peacebuilder in the world. Her work addresses both interpersonal conflict and the process of fostering dialogue between groups with deeply entrenched differences.
Read more from Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
This is a deeply religious and spiritual book, well grounded in both theory and practice, and deeply rooted in Judaism as well as other contemporary religious thinkers, such as Rev. Martin Luther King, Gandhi and others. It is must reading for rabbis, priests, imams, peace and conflict resolution specialists, and anyone else who wants to learn about what Judaism has to say not only about the concept of peace but about how to actually practice it in our personal and professional lives.
Rabbi Ron Kronish
The Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel
From Enemy to Friend provides techniques to help overcome “a primal fear of difference,” and the author describes successful programs that do so; especially heartening are those helping Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs create deep friendships.
Praise for From Enemy to Friend
This amazingly comprehensive synthesis of contemporary understandings of conflict resolution integrated into the context of the ancient and enduring wisdom of Judaism as reflected in its sacred texts will be accessible to readers across parochial boundaries because Rabbi Eilberg's voice, thoroughly captivating as a narrator, is invitingly honest, courageous, and kind.
Sylvia Boorstein, founding teacher
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
In From Enemy to Friend, Rabbi Amy Eilberg addresses the seemingly impossible task of forging peace between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. Weaving classical Jewish wisdom, spiritual teachings drawn from many traditions, writings on conflict resolution, and highly instructive personal vignettes and testimony into a seamless whole, she constructs an engaging, provocative, and discomfiting book that calls upon its readers to question deeply held and seemingly intractable positions. Her voice is gentle, wise, and modest. Yet, her moral insistence that peace is attainable shines on every page. In the end, this book is one of hope. It has the rare virtue – if only we her readers possess the openness and courage -- of changing how we are in the world.
Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., Chancellor
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Rabbi Amy Eilberg provides beautifully clear, wise and deep instruction to help each of us fulfill the injunction, “Seek peace and pursue it.” She expertly guides us regular folk in becoming pursuers of peace ourselves, rather than relegating the work to politicians or professional peace-workers. Informed by contemporary brain science as well as modern psychology, her program is both practical and spiritually-based. Eilberg shows us how to transform our minds and hearts from fear to faith, training us to interact with “the other” as a moving adventure of learning and discovery instead of as a source of threat. This book absolutely has the power to change our world for the better.
Rabbi Nancy Flam, Co-Director of Programs
Institute for Jewish Spirituality
In From Enemy to Friend: Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace, Amy Eilberg tells us what true peace means and strategies for living a life based on the pursuit of peace. She exhibits a profound understanding of the problems faced when Israelis and Palestinians, as well as Americans, particularly Jewish Americans, discuss their passionate differences regarding the conflict in the Middle East. Eilberg’s book provides us with a beginning point and, more importantly, the inspiration to follow our own paths in making our world a far more accepting and rich place in which to live our lives.
Rabbi Steve Gutow, President & CEO
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Once again, Rabbi Amy Eilberg is leading the way for the rest of us!
A pioneer in the work of Jewish chaplaincy, healing and spiritual direction, Eilberg has spent the last seven years stretching her heart and mind to answer the call of peace building in our world. In this much anticipated book, she inspires and defines yet another new field, inviting Jews to join her on the spiritual adventure of the twenty-first century: encountering the "other" with curiosity and compassion. Digging deeply into her knowledge of Jewish text and tradition, Rabbi Eilberg gently but firmly shows us what it might mean to become rodfei shalom--pursuers of peace. I cannot imagine a more important journey, nor could I hope for a wiser guide.
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer
Director, Multifaith Studies and Initiatives
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Rabbi Amy Eilberg begins her book with a story of an encounter with a German supervisee in which she “… could feel God prying the walls of my heart open…authentic human conversation had allowed me to move past traumatic historical memory to engage in relationship with one real, complex and lovable human being.” She discovered that, “The very expression of interest and inquiry creates a thaw in frozen relational combat.” In what follows, she leads us through the thinking and practices that make possible this “inner work of peacemaking,” a Hero’s Journey for our times, animated by the strength of reflection, self-awareness and self-discipline in our encounters with “difference.” She brings the deep wisdom of centuries of Jewish teaching together with contemporary research, her own thinking and the gravitas of her personal experience to focus on re-weaving the fabric of our common life. In addition to being a gifted practitioner and a complex thinker, Rabbi Eilberg is authentically human. In these pages, she walks us through her challenges as well as her triumphs, making it easier for us to imagine contributing to tikkun olam, the healing of the world, by changing the ways we treat our enemies.
Robert R. Stains, Jr., MEd, Senior Vice President
Public Conversations Project
This is a beautiful book by a very unique American rabbi. In this volume, Rabbi Amy Eilberg interweaves her poignant personal journey and her exceptional experience in spiritual healing, interreligious dialogue and peace education, with her knowledge of Jewish wisdom and her research in conflict transformation and peacebuilding into a creative and meaningful treatise. This peaceful book will be a blessing for Jews, Muslims and Christians--and members of all world religions--in America and in other parts of the world, who are genuinely interested in understanding how Judaism, and especially Jewish spiritual practice, can help all of us bring the pursuit of peace into our personal, communal and national lives.
Rabbi Ron Kronish, Founder and Director
The Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel
Lucidly written, combining theological reflection and analysis with practical handles, From Enemy to Friend is an honest telling of the engagement of one rooted in her Jewish tradition in interreligious relationships and cooperative efforts towards peace. Rabbi Eilberg brings learnings from her many years of chaplaincy experience, conflict resolution work and in interfaith dialogue to flower in this book. It’s helpful to all who engage in interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, President
SCUPE (Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education)
From beginning to end, From Enemy to Friend is a hospitable book. Grounded in the sacred texts and tradition of Judaism, Rabbi Eilberg presents “seek peace and pursue it” as the principal commandment in Jewish tradition. Implicitly, she encourages her readers to see similar values in their own spiritual traditions. Through personal narratives of “peacebuilding,” within Judaism, interfaith relations, Israel and Palestine, within families, she calls the reader to consider the pursuit of peace as a way of being for all people, in all of our relationships.
Rev. Dr. Marilyn Salmon
United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities