YONKERS, NEW YORK, USA. Rami Efal, Executive Director of Zen Peacemakers, reports on a recent visit of Harvard Divinity School school students to Greyston Bakery & with New York local Zen Peacemakers.
On November 15th, 2019 a group of 15 students from China, India and across the US studying at Harvard Divinity School attended Greyston Bakery and Foundation in Yonkers, New York. This came after Rev. Jitusjo Tina Gauthier, a Zen Buddhist priest serving and living at Zen Center of Los Angeles, was offered the position to teach a class on Engaged Buddhism, one that Bernie used to teach at the Harvard Divinity School. As representatives from Bernie’s three most prominent contributions to Engaged Buddhism came together with Rami Efal, ZPI Executive Director and Mike Brady, Greyston’s CEO, a day was crafted for the students to be immersed in Bernie’s legacy.
The schedule began with a visit to the bakery, where students listened to Karen Tumelty, Senior Development Officer at Greyston, share about the history of the organization and the conditions of the city when Bernie first arrived that lead him to envision what became an alternative hiring model. The group then moved to Issan House, the affordable housing building operated by Greyston. They met with Mr. Brady to learn about Greyston’s challenges and successes in both serving the local community, disseminating the teachings beyond Yonkers, the shadows of working in a very intersectional community, and the ways with which they maintain the original intention behind Greyston’s vision for non-judmental open-hiring, viewing each worker as a thriving mandala.
The group then participated in a panel made up of Zen Peacemakers, including guests: Willie Mukei Smith from Village Zendo, Reb Shir Yaakov of Kol Hai Jewish Renewal community in New Paltz NY as well as Jewish Clergy on the Auschwitz-Bearing Witness Retreats, and Deborah Jyoshin Stewart, a previous chairperson of Greyston and long-time participant and facilitator on the ZPI Native American and Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats. The discussion that followed was the group’s experience of Bearing Witness and how it shapes their work in the world within their diverse communities.
We are grateful to have shared a day with such an inspirational and creative group of students. Below is a poem that was collaboration by the Harvard Divinity School’s student body, artfully contemplating the question “What is Socially Engaged Buddhism”, created after their trip to Greyston.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about the day’s events and the imprint it left, read MDiv candidate Alexa Klein-Mayer’s reflection of the trip on the Harvard Divinity School’s New & Events Page.