News / Staff Showcase: Rachel Cohen

Staff Showcase: Rachel Cohen

Staff Showcase


21 / 12 / 20

Your name and job title: Rachel Cohen, Programmes Officer, Building Closer Communities team

 A little about yourself?
I’m a Jew from Toronto, Canada, and I came to London for my Masters in Conflict Studies, and am now sticking around because I really love it here!  

 What made you initially interested in interfaith work?
Realising that I spent so many years of my life hearing about other communities without actually hearing FROM them filled me with humility and curiosity. 

 What motivates you now, and why do you feel interfaith work is still required?
I am motivated by the change I have experienced and witnessed by participating in, and facilitating, interfaith dialogue; and by the very clear and urgent need for people all around the world to learn to listen to those who are different from us. I think a lot of the problems that we see around the world today – politically, ecologically, spiritually – stem from a failure to see ourselves and others as part of the same whole. Interfaith work addresses this failure by revealing the interconnectedness that underlies our differences. 

How did you first hear about F&BF?  LinkedIn!

 What parts of your role are you most excited about?
I love hearing the personal stories that speakers share in the school workshops –  I love learning about different experiences of faith, belief and identity. I also always learn a lot from the students – they remind me that it is courageous and important to ask questions, even if you feel that you should already know the answer.   

What do you feel are the most common misconceptions about faith work in society today? And what are the truths?  

  • I would say the most common misconception is that all we do is sit around drinking tea singing songs about peace and love. We are trying to create a more peaceful and loving world, but we know that we need to do this through facing our differences and having tough conversations.  
  • Another misconception is that interfaith work has no impact. While it is difficult to measure the impact of interfaith work, it has been proven (time and time again) to reduce hostility between groups! This lays the groundwork for people to behave differently, and less violently, throughout their lives. The impact is real! 
  • Perhaps the most truthful conception of interfaith work is that it is difficult; it takes time, patience, energy, and vulnerability. It is a never-ending process. You cannot expect people to go from hatred to empathy within a single session (though some do). This means that as facilitators we need to be patient, humble, and keep ourselves motivated. Luckily, the fruits of our labour do show themselves often enough in the faces of people who have been impacted by the experiences of dialogue, which serves as a reminder that the road may be long but it is a valuable one!  

What are the three main issues relating to faith you feel need addressing on a societal level this year? 

  • Misinformation online
  • Polarisation
  • Socioeconomic inequality

And finally…What floats your boat outside of work? (hobbies, other interests, etc)
I love running during the warmer seasons and indoor cycling throughout the rest of the year (though my idea of winter is a bit Canadian – I don’t consider it winter unless it’s below zero!), playing piano, dancing with my friends (especially while listening to oldies), reading philosophy (favourite book is I and Thou by Buber), and delicious food (favourite is anything Middle Eastern – and vegetarian).  

Related news

Subscribe to our mailing list

    We will add your details to our mailing list for the latest news, events and opportunities, including details of how to support us. You can opt out at any time. Your details are safe with us. We will never share them with anyone else. Check out our Privacy Policy.