Feb 82023

CTS Announces 2023 Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Interreligious Leadership Award

The InterReligious Institute at Chicago Theological Seminary is proud to announce the awarding of the 2023 Herman E. Schaalman Interreligious Award to Mr. Jamel M. Garrett.

Jamel is from Racine, Wisconsin by way of Yazoo City, Mississippi and is the Child of JoAnn Garrett and James Maple III. He is currently a doctoral student and Hoodoo scholar-practitioner. His dissertation will focus on analyzing Hoodoo culture as a source of intrapersonal and communal-based holistic healing and empowerment.

“In 2019 as a result of my research in the fields of Africana, History, and Religious Studies and sustained introspection, I made a life-long commitment to Hoodoo spiritual development as a primary source of intrapersonal and communal holistic healing,” Jamel said. “Hoodoo is an Africana revolutionary ancestral culture whose historical development merged the histories of Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas within the political context of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and subsequent domestic enslavement.”

According to Jamel, an indispensable component of Hoodoo culture is “workin’ the roots.” Workin’ the roots can include: 1) being attentive to familial historical and cultural preservation as a spiritual resource for intrapersonal and intrafamilial holistic healing and 2) reverencing Mother Earth as a sentient being while maximizing upon the profound interrelationality between her and ourselves as a spiritual resource for intrapersonal and communal holistic healing.

“As a result of my initial Hoodoo experiences I permanently relocated from Chicago, Illinois to Lexington, Kentucky on March 1, 2020 to be a family caretaker for my maternal grandmother, Ethel Mae Garrett, and maternal great-aunt, LuoDora Garrett,” Jamel explained. “A primary reason for relocating stemmed from my then-burgeoning Hoodoo foundation, which prioritizes veneration for ancestors and the living elders. Veneration in this context is the discrete cultivation of a dynamic relationship with the ancestors and the living elders that includes profound appreciation for their lives in general and their direct and indirect formative shaping upon your being. In hindsight, my decision to relocate represented my initial steps towards both inter-/intra-familial Hoodoo initiations and their embedded modalities of holistic healing.”

Through his doctoral advisor, Rev. Dr. JoAnne Marie Terrell, Jamel was introduced to Baba Dr. Coleman and the “Tribal Hoodoo” community in Fall 2021 as a spiritual resource to concretize his Hoodoo foundation and maximize intrapersonal healing. He found Hoodoo to be an ancestral cultural bridge that merged Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas, with a heritage that includes (but is not limited to) Bahamian Obeah, Kongolese Christianity, Yoruban Ifa and Haitian Vodun cultural modalities of holistic healing and self-actualization. Therefore, as a Hoodoo community rooted in ancestral veneration, holistic healing implied reverencing and recovering intrareligious (e.g. Christianity) and interreligious (e.g. Ifa; Vodun) ancestral intelligences and modes of being as indispensable cultural resources for self-actualization. “In this spiritual community Hoodoo culture celebrates intrahuman differences and conceives alternative spiritual paths as legitimate representations of modalities of self-actualization,” Jamel noted.

As Schaalman Award winner, Jamel receives $1,000 honorarium.

The Schaalman Award is named for Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman, who was born in 1916 in Munich, Germany. As a child, Schaalman endured instances of anti-semitism, intolerance and exclusion. In 1935, he managed to evade the advance of the Nazis and the Holocaust by enrolling in Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, from which he was ordained in 1941. He additionally completed his B.A. and M.A. at the University of Cincinnati in 1937, attending both schools concurrently. His ministry took him to Cedar Rapids, IA, and, later, Chicago, where he would spend the rest of his life. In 1956, Schaalman was named Senior Rabbi of Emanuel Congregation of Chicago, a position he held for more than thirty years, after which he remained Rabbi Emeritus until his death.

Schaalman is widely known for his interreligious activism. He advocated for constructive dialogue, believing that interreligious friendships could improve and heal the world. He had a close relationship with Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Bernadin of Chicago, for whom he performed a memorial service after Bernadin’s death in 1996. The Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Interreligious Leadership Award was established in his honor in 2000.

About CTS
Since its inception, CTS has lived on the edge – literally and figuratively. Established in the boomtown of Chicago in 1855, the Seminary’s first mission was to train church leaders on what was then America’s western boundary. Throughout our history CTS has been a leader in theological education, social justice, and societal transformation. Learn more at www.ctschicago.edu.