November 10, 2016
Reflection by Youth Minister Adrian Olsen
Have you ever visited a place of worship from another faith tradition or denomination? Our field trip to Temple Israel on Wed. Nov 2nd exceeded our expectations.
Confirmation youth, small group guides and the ReAffirmation class were greeted by our tour guide, Andy Halper and immediately this became a relational encounter. Andy’s teaching style and gregarious personality were realized right away as he taught us to greet him saying, “Shalom, Andy” and he would greet us back, “Shalom, _________insert your name here”. Every interaction he had with our group from that point on began with this greeting. In this way, he began to know us by our name; adults and youth alike.
Andy took us to two of their worship spaces. From the lobby, we moved into an intimate chapel like space. He taught us the three things you would always find at a Jewish Synagogue. He taught our group some Hebrew words and phrases to enhance our understanding. As a group, we were captivated by his knowledge and passion for his heritage.
The rest of our time was spent in the large worship space. Our group was enthralled by the architecture, the symbolism and the symmetry of the space. Andy explained that Temple Israel is a Reformed Jewish Community. This was an immediate connection for us as we just celebrated the Protestant Reformation this past Sunday. We could understand how we both want to keep important traditions alive while re-forming worship to reflect our changing world.
One thing I am sure we will all remember for a long time is when Andy let two of our youth open the “Ark” as he took out a very old scroll. Inside the hand stitched cover was a Torah (the books of Moses, the same first 5 books of our Old Testament). Temple Israel is one of only a few synagogues to have a Torah from the Czech Republic. This exact Torah had been read from by Jewish youth and adults who had perished in the Holocaust. And every time this Torah is taken out and read from, it is a reminder that God/Adonai is eternal.
After our visit, some thoughts linger, everyone should take a tour like this! The simple act of hearing another’s story and acknowledging we do not believe the same things but can live in mutual respect and dignity is huge. This message was not lost on our group. How much more understanding and peace would we experience in our daily lives?
Right before our goodbye, Andy took time to make sure we all knew that we would always be welcomed at Temple Israel. My hope is that Cross of Peace can truly live out our mission to Welcome ALL people as we were welcomed at the synagogue.