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Last year, after the most devastating synagogue shooting in American history, the Town of Lebanon came out in support of the Jewish community. We opened our doors and welcomed over 400 guests who showed solidarity in condemning acts of violence and hate. Our community was so moved by the outpouring of support, we would like more than anything to thank the town by inviting you back. Hopefully you can join us at Congregation Beth Israel on Friday night November 8 at 7:30pm to commemorate Kristalnacht and inter-denominational unity. Kristalnacht known as “the Night of Broken Glass,” is the official start date of The Holocaust in Europe.
On Friday night, November 8, we are planning on hosting an ecumenical Shabbat service for all faiths with an emphasis on messages of peace. We will have songs in Hebrew and English promoting cooperation and love. Though it’s true that we live in divisive times, now more than ever we need to promote channels of understanding and support. This message of solidarity transcends race, ethnic, economic and religious lines – it’s a plea for humanity and civility which is so often lacking. The Rabbinic Sages of the first millenia would endanger themselves for the purpose of reconciliation, they believed that their actions warranted the promise of messianic peace. Likewise, we believe God wants us to promote understanding, love and unity.
The unfortunate truth is that peace seems to be retreating. Hateful rhetoric and violent acts of bigotry are steadily increasing. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, reports of antisemetic attacks spiked in cities worldwide. In Germany, a shooter killed two people outside of a synagogue. In New York City, a fire was set off on the front steps. Jews, and other ethno-religious peoples are often targets of ill-intent. This sad type of behavior is typical in periods of duress, or economic scarcity, which has the impact of promoting fundamentalism. We ask that you join in celebrating what makes us more similar than different. We are strongest when we hold each other steady.
A critical feature of enlightened societies is the close proximity of its nuanced and complementary belief structures. Our town has many religions, and people of all backgrounds, which makes it a place of unique value. At Congregation Beth Israel, we are committed to celebrating Shabbat on November 8, and can think of no better way than by sharing our space with different religious and ethnic groups. Diversity is the spice of life.
It is with sincere gratitude and appreciation that I am able to serve on a pulpit here in Lebanon, and look forward to connecting with you.
Rabbi Sam Yolen is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.