Around the Town with Rene

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From Laurie James: tri-faith dialogue

We feel fortunate when Laurie James has time from her busy nursing studies to write for the TJP. This week, Laurie shares a Beth-El teen experience with our readers.
“On Oct. 25, youth from Beth-El Congregation’s confirmation class hosted their peers from University Christian Church and the Fort Worth Islamic Association in what’s become an annual tri-faith dialogue (or ‘tri-alog’) on commonalities between the three monotheistic faiths. Beth-El Religious School Director Ilana Knust commented that the program changes every few years to catch youth in different ages and stages at the participating congregations.
“Red Goldstein, who teaches the confirmation class, said he valued the programming. ‘I think that whenever there is an opportunity for people of all three faiths to see that the roots of the three religions are similar, then that is a basis for further understanding.’
“‘Mutual respect is always stronger when it is based, first of all, on mutual understanding,’ said Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger. ‘It is easy to deal in stereotypes when you only know textbook or media portraits of the others. When people really meet and talk with one another they find that the stereotypes are false, and that we share a common humanity.’
“The groups started out with an icebreaker, where students had to find people from outside their congregations with certain characteristics. It was easy for them to find vegetarians, or people who could describe Communion and keeping kosher. Many kids found students from the other congregations who liked the same drinks or had the same favorite color. However, in a room two-thirds full of mostly dark-eyed Jewish and Muslim kids, it was harder to find someone with blue eyes!
“The group of over 100 teens and adults then moved into Beth-El’s Sanctuary, where Rabbi Mecklenburger spoke about symbols one would find uniquely in a synagogue. Muslims understood that the congregation faced the Torah and east, to Jerusalem, the holy place shared by all three faiths. The rabbi shared brief information about Judaism’s different streams, and the ner tamid and the Ten Commandments affixed above the ark.
“‘But the stained glass,’ he said, ‘we got from the Christians.’
“During the next hour, the youth snacked, and learned about simple things, like when Shabbat occurs (ours is on Saturday), the tradition of keeping kosher, and why the menorah has seven branches while a chanukiah has nine branches. A Muslim young woman said she learned that the Wailing Wall was a place of great holiness for Jews, as it’s the last remnant of the Temple.
“‘I learned that Jews are awesome,’ said a member of UCC.
“Jackie Boztek, a longtime community educator, led a breakout group and commented, ‘I learned that we have a great group of young people in our community.’
“‘I accept my faith and I take it for granted,’ said Knust. ‘But sometimes people outside my faith don’t know that about me. So it’s nice to share that with other people.’
“‘It’s important to recognize the differences of history,’ said Goldstein. ‘But we should also focus on the things that we have that are similar such as tzedakah (Muslim zakat, Christian tithing). The better we understand each other’s difference and each other’s sameness, the closer we come to peace and understanding.’
“Patricia Smith, a member of UCC, agreed. ‘We have more commonality than difference,’ she said. ‘It’s about simple things, and how we do things in our communities the same way.’
“Rabbi Mecklenburger stressed the importance of all three faiths learning to respect one another. ‘If we can get together peacefully in Fort Worth, Texas,’ he said, ‘ it is reasonable to think that the same can one day happen in the Middle East or anywhere else.’
“The tri-faith dialogue will continue at Fort Worth’s University Christian Church on Nov. 8 and at the Mosque on Nov. 15.”
Thanks to Laurie for her excellent reportage of the tri-faith dialogue.

‘Daytimers’ to honor WW II vets

The coming event for the “Daytimers” will honor World War II veterans, on Wednesday, Nov. 18, at noon at Beth-El when author Bryan Rigg discusses one of his books, “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: Question of Jewish Identity and Morality.”
Rigg has turned up an unexplored and confounding chapter in the history of the Holocaust. With the skill of a master detective he uncovered the largely unknown story of German Jews serving in the Nazi military. Raised as a Protestant in the Texas Bible Belt, Bryan Mark Rigg was surprised to learn of his own Jewish ancestry while researching his family tree in Germany. This revelation, as well as a chance encounter with a Jewish veteran of the Wehrmacht at a Berlin screening of “Europa Europa,” roused him to embark on a decade of research while a student, first at Yale University and later at Cambridge University. “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military” is the result of his efforts.
Lunch will be catered by Pak-a-Pocket. Guests have a choice of turkey pastrami, chicken shwarma or baba ghanoush (eggplant). All are on pita bread, plus pickle, chips, cookies, coffee or tea. Cost is $9 each, or guests may attend the program only for $4. All World War II veterans will be guests of the “Daytimers.”
For reservations, call Barbara ­Rubin, 817-927-2736, or Sylvia Wexler, 817-294-1129, or checks can be mailed to Daytimers, Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road, Fort Worth, TX 76109.
The Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” is a program of Beth-El Congregation with financial support from the Jewish Federation.

TCU social work professor to present research on Holocaust survivors’ memories

A TCU social work professor will present research on Holocaust survivors Thursday, Nov. 12 as part of the SMU Human Rights Education Program “Holocaust Legacies: Shoah as Turning Point” 2009 fall series and a “Holocaust Survivors: Stories of Resilience” symposia series funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The presentation and panel discussion, “Forgiveness, Resiliency, and Survivorship Among Holocaust Survivors,” will take place at the SMU Perkins School of Theology – Prothro Great Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The event is free and open to attend; CEUs (continuing education units) are available. TCU is co-sponsoring the event along with SMU, Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance and the University of Dallas.
Dr. Harriet Cohen, associate professor of social work at TCU, will present her research findings about Holocaust survivors, along with Dr. Roberta Greene, co-principal investigator of the study, professor of social work and endowed chair at the University of Texas at Austin. Panel participants include historians, mental health professionals and local Holocaust survivors who participated in the study. Dr. Joretta Marshall, professor of pastoral theology and care at Brite Divinity School, brings her expertise to the panel.
“We found that even people who endured the atrocities of the Holocaust developed the capacity to rebuild their lives. They remembered the losses they experienced, but they also remembered that they survived, which allowed them adapt to a new country, language and culture, rebuild their lives, create families and live into older adulthood. Hopefully this research helps the current generation prepare and respond to the survivors of traumatic events like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech shooting,” Dr. Cohen said.
“We have to choose to go on and to remember the past but also to have hope for the future,” she continued.
The study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, focused on a better understanding of resiliency and survivorship after trauma, whereas earlier Holocaust studies focused on problems and victimhood. The John Templeton Foundation is a philanthropic organization that funds scientific research in its mission to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discovery in areas engaging life’s biggest questions.
For more information on the event and to RSVP, please e-mail or for more information about the research, contact Dr. Cohen, or 817-257-5230.

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