shalom  salaam  peace

Same Difference Interfaith Alliance

at The West Side Center for Community Life, Inc.

263 West 86th Street, New York, NY 10024     212.362.3179

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Documentary Film - Trailer


Program Evolution
Stage Production
Documentary Film
Education & Outreach



The film begins with a montage of New York's crazy quilt of religious and ethnic communities as we explore the role of religious faith (or lack of religious faith) in people's lives. This introduction illustrates how the sustenance some people gain from their beliefs can also serve, in a multiethnic city, to drive people apart. Utilizing the structure of the original play, the film takes its audience on a journey that begins with a playful and thought-provoking introduction to the three religions and the idea of religious faith and conflict. "In middle school, I started questioning a lot," remembers one young woman, "because you're thinking about boys and then all of a sudden my parents are like, 'No, we don't date. That's not part of our religion." A man explains, "I grew up Black, Catholic, and gay, so forget about it!"

The film follows the creators of Same Difference as they interview Muslims, Jews, and Christians to shed light on the meaning of the symbols, rituals, and theology of the three religions. We layer rich visual images with interviews and dramatized monologues from the play to explore issues such as interfaith dating, conversion and tolerance. We illustrate the tentativeness with which people of different faiths often approach one another. "There was a woman in the neighborhood who had heard me greeting people with our Islamic greeting 'A salaam aleikem' which means, 'Peace Be With You,' explains one woman. One day she finally asked what the heck I was saying. After I explained she said, 'Ohhhh! this whole time I thought you were saying 'salmon and bacon, salmon and bacon.'"

As the film continues, the actors' voices are inter-cut with historical and contemporary images as we descend into violence and chaos, the product of the often-insurmountable tensions between the three great faiths. The scenes that course across the screen will be drawn from ancient illustrations, archival footage and contemporary images from today's headlines. "The whole dynamic between the African American and the Jewish American community has always been very touchy," explains one man. 'What you are dealing with are two psychologically traumatized people. They are hyper-sensitive to everything." A woman plaintively explains, "American culture, western culture. These things that I think are so rich and wonderful, I'm aware are profane in the eyes of Muslims and certain Islamists." This portion of the film culminates in the catastrophe of 9/11 brought about by an act of absolute hatred, the fierce and angry reactions it provoked among the different faiths, and the attempts by each to come to terms with the disaster. In the Muslim community, in particular, this meant dealing with widespread arrests and detentions as well as the fear of deportation.

After its fiery last section, the play concludes in a reaching out, an acceptance of one another's differences and the beginning of a kind of reconciliation, poignantly illustrated by the history of B'nai Jeshurun synagogue and The (Methodist) Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, whose members created Same Difference. (The director of the proposed documentary attends B'nai Jeshurun.)

After the synagogue's roof caved in a decade ago, the Methodist congregation opened its doors and sanctuary to the Jewish congregants. Our cameras visit the Church that is a home to the two congregations.

We see a Friday night Jewish Sabbath service that dissolves to a Sunday morning Methodist service in the same sanctuary as a minister's voice explains that "in 1991, the city was really divided. The month we got together the Crown Heights riots happened. It was kind of a low point of interfaith and interracial relations in NYC. For that reason, it got a lot of attention. It was inspiring for a lot of people outside of us. I've gotten letters from people all over the country saying how important this was. In the mid-1990s, the Christian and Jewish congregations reached out to the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood to create an interfaith trialogue.

With the events of 9/11 these long-standing efforts at interfaith reconciliation were redoubled, leading to the creation of Same Difference. As we explore its origins with the creative team, congregants, ministers, rabbis and imams of these sister institutions, we are exploring the ongoing legacy created by the events of a decade ago which brought these congregations together. A member of B'nai Jeshurun reflects, "I'm Jewish but I love that church. It feels to me like home. The fact that I could love a church and know it's not mine, and it feels like home, it makes me certain that there's a larger world out there and we can't just live in a vacuum."

In its final section, the film documents the impact of the outreach efforts of Same Difference's producers, exploring the interfaith work that has grown out of the play including the Cordoba bread Project where the three faiths will come together to break bread and talk and an Interfaith Passover Seder, both designed to foster communication and long term relations among the three faiths. Finally, we will videotape two or three performances at other institutions, such as a high school and a mosque. We ask these audiences as well as our actors and other New Yorkers to reflect on their thoughts about the city's (and country's) future in the wake of 9/11, potential war in the Middle East and the ongoing war against terrorism.

To view the completed SAME DIFFERENCE film trailer, you can watch it in two parts on YouTube OR view the entire trailer at

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© 2003 Same Difference Alliance. All rights reserved.

Created: 6/26/03       Revised: 08/01/2003