March 8, 2014
Last week I attended a Faith Relations Committee meeting in support of Habitat for Humanity, a social service agency that helps needy families with housing. I heard about it from someone I met in February at a religious roundtable at WVU medical school. My contacts with non-Jewish clergy are beginning to snowball.
We also have contacts with other creeds through TOL's participation in a local interfaith youth group. Some of our kids visited the Hindu temple last spring, and our Sukkot party in September drew visitors from various faith communities. I'm pleased to see growing momentum for multi-religious programming in Morgantown.
We are approaching Purim, when we read the dramatic book of Esther. The villain, Haman, turns against the Jews because "...their laws are different from those of any other people" (Esther 3:8). Needless to say, every religion has its own laws. Fruitful coexistence entails a certain tension between cultures, and this is as hard for Jews as for our neighbors. When I lived in Jerusalem, I volunteered for a civil rights group called the Merkaz l'Pluralism (Pluralism Center). Pluralism is such an unfamiliar word to Israelis that it was often misread on the sign as Floralism. (P and F are the same letter in Hebrew). It's anyone's guess what a Floralism Center might accomplish.
On the other hand, Judaism has never claimed to be the one true religion, or tried to convert the whole human race. According to Maimonides, the 12th-century Spanish rabbi, "The righteous of all nations have a share in the World-to-Come." In other words, you don't have to be Jewish to be "saved." Jews in the old country usually had an official delegate to the non-Jewish society, called Reish Galuta (diaspora leader) or Sh'tadlan (mediator). We are long accustomed to mingling with people of diverse traditions.
One of my goals this year is to expand dialogue and cooperation with other religions. I am grateful to medical student Masih Ahmed for bringing me to WVU medical school on February 13, and to Mormon bishop Brad Jensen for inviting me to the Faith Relations Committee meeting on March 4. It's a Jewish value to give credit where it's due (b'shem omro): as it is said, "And Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai" (Esther 2:22).
Purim play audition / rehearsal: Tuesday, March 4, and Thursday, March 6, 7:00-8:00 pm. Please come to one or both. No talent necessary. Play is called Okla-Haman. Performance is Saturday evening, March 15.
Judy Petsonk, author of QUEEN OF THE JEWS, will make a presentation at TOL on Saturday morning, March 22. The event includes a bagel brunch, and takes the place of Saturday morning Torah study. Also, there is no programming on Saturday morning, March 15.
The list of oneg responsibilities is now online. Go to Community | Oneg List in the navigation menu at the top of the page. This is the same list that is posted in the Tree of Life Social Hall (aka basement).
The Jewish Chronicle (Pittsburgh, PA) published an article by Tree of Life's Rabbi Joseph Hample. Click here to see this article.
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