Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

Posted on by Rabbi Barbara Symons

Love your neighbor as yourself.  We all say it.  Sometimes we live it.  Sometimes, we don’t know how to live it.  One way to begin is to learn about others.

For the past six weeks, I have participated in The Multi-faith Neighbors Network in which local rabbis, evangelical ministers, and imams are put into triads to learn together and to do together.  The latter is a challenge given the Zoom-limitations.  The goal is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to learn through asking and wrestling with challenging questions and to bring our communities into these relationships.  The six weeks are only the beginning.

On our way from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, we stopped at the Palace of Gold.  This Palace and its compound are nestled in the hills of West Virginia near Moundsville.  It is exquisite, from the gardens to the palace itself.  Per its website: “His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) is widely regarded as the foremost Vedic scholar, translator, and teacher of the modern era. He is especially respected as the world’s most prominent contemporary authority on bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Person, Krishna, as taught by the ancient Vedic writings of India. He is also the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.”

Going into the Palace of Gold in ways was uncomfortable but so are some of the conversations in our triad.  However, if I stay home and don’t speak with others, ultimately I am more isolated.  I invite you to journey with me – even if while staying at home – and allow yourself to love your neighbor as yourself.

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Broken Glass Leads to Wholeness

Posted on by Rabbi Barbara Symons

As Debbie Jacknin, our resident artist, said to our students: when we as Jews think of broken glass, we think of Kristallnacht.  And while the shards of colorful broken glass that were to be used to create our memorial to the horror of October 27, 2018, she noted that while they would not become whole, together they would create something new.  And so they did.

Hand after hand – congregants of every age, neighbors of every age, skin tone, gender, religion, ethnicity, our elected officials and every single one of our religious school students placed glass onto our glass mosaic, designed by Debbie, inspired by our Remembrance Committee and based on the poem “In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them” written by Rabbis Syvan Kamens and Jack Reimer.

The first to place the broken glass were Committee members who placed 11 stars for the 11 victims. The very first star was placed by the hand of Rachael Farber, great niece of Rose Mallinger (z”l) in the top right corner.

Carefully placing glass shards is healing.  As it was when I asked students to choose a piece of glass that reflected, through its color or shape, how they were feeling at that moment.  Red for anger; blue for comfort; red for violence… And then those emotions became art.

Thank you to Debbie, to our Committee, to all who joined us on Saturday night and to every hand that touched a piece of art that reflects brokenness and wholeness all at once.

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A Proud Moment

Posted on by Rabbi Barbara Symons

It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I sat on the “bimah” of the Monroeville United Methodist Church along with the clergy and lay representatives of the Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium as we expressed our thankfulness and celebrated the diversity of America.

It was a powerful evening.

But it is the quiet moments that might count even more.  After the horrific shooting of a Muslim taxi driver in Pittsburgh, I texted my Muslim colleague to express not only my sorrow, but that our interfaith work is stronger than hate… but only if we express it.

As you wrap your Chanukah gifts, set up your chanukkiot, buy your potatoes and oil, and consider the beneficiaries of your end of the year giving, give the gift of tolerance.  One phone call, note or text at a time.


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The Kotel Needs to be all of ours

Posted on by Rabbi Barbara Symons

Are you ready to make your voice heard?  If so, go to the Religious Action Center petition urging the Israeli government to ensure that oversight of the Kotel includes a range of Jewish views and voices and protects gender equality.

Read Rabbi Symon’s letters to Israel

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