I learned about Rabbi Heschel’s document, No Religion Is An Island, during a conference I attended yesterday on Nostra Aetate, one of the conciliar documents coming out of Vatican II which set a tone for discussions between Christians, Jews, and Catholics.  This quotation from Heschel is taken from this website.
On what basis do we people of different religious
commitments meet one another ?

First and foremost we meet as human beings who
have so much in common : a heart, a face, a voice, the presence of a soul,
fears, hope, the ability to trust, a capacity for compassion and
understanding, the kinship of being human. My first task in every encounter
is to comprehend the personhood of the human being I face, to sense the
kinship of being human, solidarity of being.

To meet a human being is a major challenge to
mind and heart. I must recall what I normally forget. A person is not just a
specimen of the species called homo sapiens. He is all of humanity in
one, and whenever one man is hurt we are all injured. The human is a
disclosure of the divine, and all men are one in God’s care for man. Many
things on earth are precious, some are holy, humanity is holy of holies.

To meet a human being is
an opportunity to sense the image of God, the presence of God.
According to a rabbinical interpretation, the Lord said to Moses :
“Wherever you see the trace of, man there I stand before you…”

When engaged in a conversation with a person of
different religious commitment I discover that we disagree in matters sacred
to us, does the image of God I face disappear ? Does God cease to stand
before me ? Does the difference in commitment destroy the kinship of being
human ? Does the fact that we differ in our conceptions of God cancel what we
have in common : the image of God ?

For this reason was man
created single ( whereas of every other species many were created ) …
that there should be peace among human beings : one cannot say to his
neighbor, my ancestor was nobler than thine ( Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a

The primary aim of these reflections is to
inquire how a Jew out of his commitment and a Christian out of his commitment
can find a religious basis for communication and cooperation on matters
relevant to their moral and spiritual concern in spite of disagreement.

There are four dimensions of religious existence,
four necessary components of man’s relationships to God : a ) the teaching,
the essentials of which are summarized in the form of a creed, which serve as
guiding principles in our thinking about matters temporal or eternal, the
dimension of the doctrine; b ) faith, inwardness, the direction of one’s
heart, the intimacy of religion, the dimension of privacy; c ) the law, or
the sacred act to be carried out in the sanctuary, in society, or at home,
the dimension of the deed; d ) the context in which creed, faith and ritual
come to pass, such as the community or the covenant, history, tradition, the
dimension of transcendence.

In the dimension of the deed there are obvipusly
vast areas for cooperation among men of different commitments in terms of
intellectual communication, of sharing concern and knowledge in applied
religion, particularly as they relate to social action.

In the dimension of
faith, the encounter proceeds in terms of personal witness and example,
sharing insights, confessing inadequacy. On the level of doctrine we seek to
convey the content of what we believe in, on the level of faith we experience
in one another the presence of a person radiant with reflections of a greater

I suggest that the most significant basis for
meeting of men of different religious traditions is the level of fear and
trembling, of humility and contrition, where our individual moments of faith
are mere waves in the endless ocean of mankind’s reaching out for God, where
all formulations and articulations appear as understatements, where our souls
are swept away by the awareness of the urgency of answering God’s
commandment, while stripped of pretension and conceit we sense the tragic
insufficiency of human faith.

What divides us ? What unites us ? We disagree in
law and creed, in commitments which lie at the very heart of our religious
existence. We say “No” to one another in some doctrines essential
and sacred to us. What unites us ? Our being accountable to God, our being
objects of God’s concern, precious in His eyes. Our conceptions of what ails
us may be different; but the anxiety is the same. The language, the
imagination, the concretization of our hopes are different, but the
embarrassment is the same, and so is the sign, the sorrow, and the necessity
to obey.

We may disagree about the ways of achieving fear
and trembling, but the fear and trembling are the same. The demands are
different, but the conscience is the same, and so is arrogance, iniquity. The
proclamations are different, the callousness is the same, and so is the
challenge we face in many moments of spiritual agony.

Above all, while dogmas and forms of worship are
divergent, God is the same. What unites us ? A commitment to the Hebrew Bible
as Holy Scripture. Faith in the Creator, the God of Abraham, commitment to
many of His commandments, to justice and mercy, a sense of contrition,
sensitivity to the sanctity of life and to the involvement of God in history,
the conviction that without the holy the good will be defeated, prayer that
history may not end before the end of days, and so much more.

There are moments when we all stand together and
see our

faces in the mirror : the
anguish of humanity and its helplessness; the perplexity of the individual
and the need of divine guidance; being called to praise and to do what is