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Entries about interfaith

The Madam.


The Madam.

I am writing this story from the Kapiot Café in Haifa Israel. My status in life is that of an oleh chadash or new immigrant to the land of Canaan. I moved here six years ago at the age of fifty nine from Western Colorado. Retirement has many advantages in this splendid city. The balmy Mediterranean climate, the beautiful beach and tiyelet or boardwalk make Haifa a wonderful place for hiking, swimming, fishing, and leisurely walks. There are many historical sites, three major universities, and spiritual shrines including the Bahia Gardens and Elijah’s tomb.

I was blessed to live most of my adult life in the beautiful woods of Western Colorado. Hiking, camping, fishing, and viewing wildlife made life a wonderful experience. My career was servicing the employment needs of people with disabilities for various government agencies. Blessings indeed adorned my life.

That brings us to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Life in the steel city of my youth was gray in the truest sense of the word. I often left for Taylor Allderdice High School in a white shirt in the morning. Many times I returned home in a grey shirt which was victimized by the infamous pollution of the era. School was either an hour walk in the cold and rainy climate or a crowded bus ride. The Pittsburgh Steelers were then the goats of professional football, but the Pirates blessed us with their 1960 miracle World Series victory and sadly little more than that.

Dad was a grocery executive and rarely home. Mom suffered from serious medical problems and was very distant from me and my two sisters. Life (except for golf) was bleak and dull. Thank goodness for the Madam.

Mom’s faltering health necessitated the need for nearly full time domestic help. Lulu was an African American woman in her fifties when she first came to our service. She was thin and walked softly. One of many joys that we enjoyed with the Madame was ongoing quips about her age. She was born and raised in Tupelo Mississippi in the late nineteenth century and refused to tell us her true age. We found out when her time came that she was born in 1870. She died in 1971. She was blessed to live a long and healthy life. She was still active at the age of 97! The good do not always die young.

Lulu (the Madam) was raised in a sharecropper’s family of nine children. She married an alcoholic mill worker who abused her physically and mentally. Life for a blacked skinned woman anywhere in America in those days was a disgrace. She ran away from her husband after nine years and settled in Memphis Tennessee where she worked as a seamstress and housekeeper. Pittsburgh became her home in 1955 when her family moved there to work in the steel mills. She came to us through a friend Mrs. Feldman and was a part of our family until the end.

She took care of mom’s health, served as a surrogate mom to us, cleaned our home, cooked, and served as the secretary of her church. Many of us go through life with frowns on our faces; she always had a bright smile on hers. I learned to appreciate Chili Stew with egg noodles, lemon meringue pie, Chicken Fricassees, and most importantly spirituality from this humble yet brilliant and talented woman. She was a wonderful public speaker and outstanding singer. Her greatest talent of course was her ability to motivate and bring joy to the lives of others. Dad often mused about her potential in a world with more equality and justice.

I left Pittsburgh at the age of eighteen and never returned. There were the wonderful visits with family especially Lulu. We spent hundreds of hours discussing the value of faith in life. She was a fervent Christian yet urged me to explore, understand, and adore my Jewish faith. “The Golden Rule should be universal”. She admonished me to live by it. Hopefully, I have not let her down.

Lulu was so humble that she rarely talked about herself. We discovered after her death that she was a passionate civil rights activist and traveled in very famous circles. She refused to fly and traveled by bus to confront injustices in America. “I want to be as far away from my maker when my time comes”, she explained to us often. The only time that she broke her sacred rule was to attend my wedding.

She was born Lulu Robinson but spent her last thirty years known as The Madam. How did this occur? There were many times during my high school years that a man only known as the Bishop called our home to speak to her. “Is The Madam there he would quiz in a deep apparently southern voice”. She was the secretary of his church and her title was Madam Robinsom. I never understood it but loved the title and never ceased to tease my friend about her name.

I think often about my best friend as I pursue my greatest passions in life that of promoting interfaith dialogue and peace in this trouble region. Is there hope for these goals? Who knows” I was blessed to have a great mentor and hopefully can do my small share to bring these blessings to our region.

Posted by eshugerman 06:00 Tagged freedom pittsburgh inspiration interfaith dialogue Comments (0)

Holocaust! The Rightous Gentiles!

"Lest We Forget"

This past week was Holocasut Memorial Day in Israel. Paying homage to six million murdered Jewish brethen is particularly painful here in Israel. Many of us lost friends and family. This is a nation where the constant fear of destruction has been an ongoing part of our lives for sixty-four years. Yet, we gratefully remember those non-Jews who helped us during our darkest days and support us in our current struggle to survive.

It is generally believed that six million Jews perished as a result of Nazi genocide. Hundreds of thousands of others would have joined them were it not for the courageous intervention of a few world leaders and thousands of individuals who risked their lives in order to save Jews from the gas chambers. Many of these men and women paid for their heroic efforts with their lives. There were those who stood up and fought for justice.

Those who resisted the Gestapo during the infamous round-ups and hid Jews did so at grave personal peril. Any person caught hiding a Jew was immediately shot on the spot or taken out to be publicly hanged.

Those non-Jews who worked at great risk to their personal safety to save Jews became known as the “Righteous Persons” (or sometimes Righteous Gentiles). There are thousands of stories of great valor which will never be told because the Nazis executed many of these Righteous Persons. Among those whose stories one of the most celebrated is that of Raoul Wallenberg.

Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who made it a special, personal mission to help save the Jews of Hungary. More than 30,000 Jews received special Swedish passports from Wallenberg. He set up "safe houses," distributed food and medical supplies, and virtually single-handedly set up a bureaucracy in Budapest, Hungary's capital, designed to protect Jews. More than 90,000 Budapest Jews were deported to the death camps and murdered, and Wallenberg's efforts may have reduced the number of those murdered by half. As a diplomat, he successfully confronted the Nazis at great risk to his own safety. Following the "liberation" of Budapest by the Soviets, he was arrested by them, thrown in prison, and never heard from again. Reports often surface, unconfirmed, that he is still alive, although the Soviets announced his death two years after his arrest.

I immigrated to Israel five years ago from Colorado. My greatest blessings in Israel have come as the result of interfaith activities in Haifa, my new home. I have participated in Soccer leagues with our Muslim neighbors in Israel. My Synagogue, Or Hadash has hosted an interfaith choir with Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze members from Europe, Israel, and America. We have joined with the Catholic Focolare in monthly study sessions, interfaith youth sports activities and a spiritual retreat at Kibbutz Nes Ammim. Jews, Christians, and Muslims from dozens of countries attended the event.

I want to thank our non-Jewish friends everywhere for your continued support. Please come and see this incredible nation for yourselves!

Posted by eshugerman 03:55 Tagged colorado israel holocaust nazis gentile judaism interfaith raoul wallenberg nes ammim Comments (0)

The Druze in Carmel Israel

Life in Israel

This story was written prior to the Carmel fires which devistated the region that I love so much in 2010. I am writing this post from the prospective of an American immigrant to Israel of five years. I am proud to be the honorary interfaith coordinator of Temple Or Hadash in Haifa. My greatest blessings have been the result of participating in interfaith activities with our friends the Focolare (the largest Catholic outreach movemensit), and several other religious groups- including our Druze neighbors. I live in Haifa. Daliat El Carmel and Osifia are two Druze villages close to Haifa in the Carmel Forests.

The Druze have lived in the Galilee and Carmel area for a thousand years. Even though the Druze language is Arabic, their religion and culture is seperate and unique. They speak a special dialect of Arabic that sounds much like Syrian dialects of Arabic. They are neither Muslim nor Christian. They number about one and a half million in the world. However, the vast majority live in the Galilee, Southern Lebanon and Southern Syria. The Druze have no political aspirations to be an independent nation. Their emphasis is on spiritual and not secular issues. They are fiercely loyal and equal citizens of this nation. The Israeli Druze serve mandatory service in the Israeli military..

The Druze religion was founded just about a thousand years ago. In general they have chosen to keep a lot of facts of their faith secret. I can tell you a few details they shared with me. Four prophets carry the Druze messianic message. The first three are the biblical Moses, Jethro, and Muslim Muhammad. According to the faith, the fourth prophit- Hamza Ben Ali was the strongest of the lot. He approached an important sheikh in Egypt in 1017. The shiekh had accepted him immediatly and nominated him as the spiritual leader of Egypt of the time. Hamza was a spiritual leader for 22 years. His era was the opportunity to join the Druze religion. After that time, one has to be born into the religion to be a part of it.

I enjoy visiting our Druze neighbors.The atmosphere of the villages is warn and open. Anybody, including the villagers, can choose either to dress traditionally or in designer clothes. The village, like the rest of the world, started as an agricultural society. Today professions range from sheperding to computer programming. The countryside is beautiful and pastoral, yet the scene is dotted with Mercedes, upgrade shopping, and your expected McDonalds. There are wonderful restaurants and shops.

The highlight of my visits to the Daliat El Carmel village is the Yad La Banim (tr. hand of our sons) Center. This type of facility is common in many different parts of Israel including Haifa. The primary reason for building these centers is to commemorate those who gave their lives defending the nation. In Daliat El Carmel, 330 of the Druze community are honored for giving their lives defending Israel. For instance, the guide of my first tour Jaber, lost his uncle during the struggle for independence against the British occupation in 1947. His uncle helped many of the resistance leaders hide from both British soldiers and the followers of the Grand Mufti (leader of the Arab Leagion). One of the people he assisted was the former Haifa Mayor Aba Hushi.

The war memmorial was built in 1980. The Druze got the authorization to build the Yad La Banim near the historical site of the house in which author and British MP Sir Lawrence Oliphant and his wife resided. His assistant, Naftali Zvi Hertz Imber, resided with them. He was the author of the song that eventually became the Israeli national anthem. Tradition has it that he was more inspired by the view than Zionist aspirations when writing the song.

The mayor's office and other modern government offices are situated in the village's Yad La Banim Center. During our tour we met many of the community's residents and visited their homes. Hospitality is a very important part of their tradition. I am glad that I have the oppurtunity to experience it. I was even invited to an upcoming wedding during my first visit to the villages.

This monstrous fire burned millions of trees, destroyed countless homes, and most horrific of all took the lives of forty three human beings. Yet, goodness and kindheartedness came from around us and beyond. The Druze villages were among the most hard-hit areas of the fire's fury. The residents of these villages and all of us in Northern Israel thank those who offered support and solidarity. Rebuilding has progressed rapidly. The residents have a long tradition of spirituality, a strong family base, and tenacious ability to adapt that had enabled the inhabitants of these villages to move forward.

Posted by eshugerman 14:02 Tagged israel carmel haifa or mcdonald's interfaith druze hatikvah hadash judasim Comments (0)

Interfaith Peace Efforts in Israel

Life in Haifa

I am writing this story from the vantage point of an American Immigrant to Haifa Israel. My five years as an "Oleh" or immigrant have been challenging but incredibly satisfying. I want to thank Rabbi Edgar Nof and my Temple, Or Hadash, in Haifa for warmly accepting me and helping me adjust to life in Israel. My experiences in interfaith activities at Or Hadash have made me a passionate supporter of dialogue between peoples and have helped me to cope with the challenges of immigration.

The side of life in Israel-Palestine that gains media attention is that of conflict and anger. Sadly, this side of life does exist in this region. However, there are efforts made by many Jews, Christians,and Muslims on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian borders to bring harmony. This is particularly true in Haifa "The City of Peaceful Co-Existence".

Or Hadash puts a great deal of emphasis and energy into interfaith actions and words. Or Hadash networks with the Muslim Achmedia, with the Druze community, and many other faiths to build better relations. We enhance our own spirituality by sharing our lives with friends from other faiths.

I would like to share a bit about our relationship with the Catholic Focolare- the largest Catholic outreach movement in the world.The Focolare does a myriad of spiritual, cultural, social, and economic programs worldwide- based on their primary tenet "Unity for All". The members of the Focolare live by the golden rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." For the past five years Or Hadash and the local Focolare have met monthly in a joint study meeting. We study each others holy writings. Our goal is to learn from each other not to change or judge the faiths of our friends. This past year, our monthly meeting was held on Dec 22nd, just three days before the Christmas celebration. It is very common for Jews, Christians, and Muslims to share our holidays together in Haifa.

In these monthly study meetings, we study both the Old and the New Testaments with the goal of understanding each other's spirituality and not contesting it. This year we met during the week of Easter and Passover. We talked about the origins of both holidays and some of the common traditions.

We have participated in activities sponsored by the Focolare that have been incredible. Or Hadash took part in a four day interfaith spiritual retreat at Kibbutz Nes Ammim in the Galilee. The event was done in the summers of 2009 and 2010. Jews, Christians, and Muslims from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian border took part in the retreat. We studied each others holy books, prayed together, and enjoyed meeting participants from dozens of countries. Our only real source of contention was the nature of the cuisine! We were the first Jewish participants in this convention in the history of Israel-Palestine. .

We also send a delegation to the world renowned Run4Unity. It was held for the first time ever in Haifa in the year 2007. Youth from Israel-Palestine participated in a variety of sports activities held at Haifa's Carmel Beach. Several hundred youth from Israel and Palestine shared this activity without contention. Jewish, Christian,and Muslim young people participated. This year the event is being held in Caesaria in May.

In April of 2011, Or Hadash held one of the most exciting, beautiful and historic events at our congregation: INTERFAITH-DIALOGUE-PEACE CONCERT, HEALING THE CARMEL.

It was a first time in our congregation’s history that Muslim, Christian and Jewish choirs, musicians and singers came together to sing in unity for peace at Or Hadash. A Muslim choir from the Achmaddiyyan community, along with their Muezzin Umar Sharief, two Catholic choirs singing in Latin, English and Arabic, a German group of 11 young musicians, and Or Hadash choir – Shir Hadash, all came together in an inspiring evening that touched everyone and will be remembered for years to come.

A crowd of almost 300 people gathered at our synagogue for the event. Representatives from the three faiths spoke to the guests, emphasizing the importance of music and the significance of coming together to sing for such a noble cause.

An Arabic TV channel (Al Hura) from the US, arrived to document the evening. The German newspaper Die Welt sent reporters to cover the event. Haifa’s local media was present as well.

My favorite interfaith experience at Or Hadash took place in November of 2009. We joined our friends from the local Muslim Achmadi School in Haifa to host a youth "Soccer for Peace" program at their school in the Cababir part of Haifa. The Achmadiyya are peaceful followers of Islam. They have more than one hundred million followers in the world. Many live in Indonesia, Pakistan and England.

Youth ages to played a three game tournament that had both boy and girl players participate. Our team coach was Timothy Crowe, a Southern Baptist envoy to Israel from Dallas Texas. The kids enjoyed the beautiful Haifa fall weather, and a feast of cookies, cakes, pizza and soft drinks that followed the games. We are looking forward to continuing and expanding this activity in the fall of this year. I am looking forward to telling the readers more about the "Soccer for Peace" program in future posts.

Posted by eshugerman 09:29 Tagged israel haifa southern baptists judaism interfaith achmadiyya focolare catholicism Comments (0)

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