STL Jewish Light: Religion and politics

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Religion and politics

Rabbi James Bennett of Congregation Shaare Emeth has been invited to participate in the Jan. 9 inauguration of Missouri Governor-elect Eric Greitens, who is a Republican and grew up in the Jewish faith. Bennett will offer the benediction at the conclusion of the swearing-in ceremony in Jefferson City, and also will participate in the interfaith prayer service at St. Peter’s Church, the morning of the inauguration.
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“As soon as the governor was elected I sent an email to him via his staff to congratulate him,” said Bennett. “As president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association I wanted to extend an invitation to him to connect with rabbis in the area.”

Bennett soon heard back from Greitens’ staff asking if the rabbi would participate in the swearing-in ceremony and interfaith service at the inauguration. “I think it’s important for the governor-elect to have a rabbi as part of this ceremony and I think it’s particularly important to (Greitens) because of his Jewish upbringing,” said Bennett. “My hope is that there will be progress in our state, and I am very honored to represent our Jewish community at this event.”

Meanwhile, Greitens is slated to attend Shabbat services at United Hebrew Congregation at 10:30 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 7). Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg said the congregation received a call from Greitens’ team asking if he could come to the service and be a part of it.

“We looked to see what we had — we’ve had people request this before,” said Rosenberg. “Even though there is a bat mitzvah service scheduled, it is still a community Shabbat service, so we went ahead and said, ‘absolutely.’ ”

Simone Hotter, daughter of Yana and Christian Hotter and a seventh-grader at Thomas Jefferson School, will be celebrating her bat mitzvah at the service. Yana Hotter said that while she and her family did not support Greitens, “we wanted to extend the olive branch and welcome him even if we do not agree with his politics.”

Rosenberg explained that because Greitens is Jewish, he will be given an aliyah as well as a mi sheberach (a well-being blessing). “We are doing his aliyah separate from Simone,” said Rosenberg. “She will lead the morning service. When we get to the Torah services, she will offer her d’var Torah, then she will sit down and the governor-elect will be called for his aliyah. At UH, anyone who comes for an aliyah will get a mi sheberach.

“After his mi sheberach, he will have a couple of minutes to offer a greeting. Then he will sit down and Simone will be called forward as a Torah reader,” Rosenberg said, adding that after the entire service is over, Greitens will hold a meet-and-greet for about 15 minutes with congregants.

“His success is our state’s success and we want our state to be successful,” said Rosenberg. “As I told Simone, ‘How many people are able to say the governor-elect received a blessing at your bat mitzvah? Whether you ascribe to his politics or not, he will be the governor of the state and that’s pretty cool.’”

Yana Hotter said just to make sure her family’s point-of-view was represented, she asked state Sen. Jill Schupp, a Democrat from Creve Coeur, to deliver a reading at Simone’s bat mitzvah service. “Jill was more than happy to do so,” Yana added.

Interfaith dialogue

Here’s an interesting discussion to put on your radar. It’s entitled: Where was God at Auschwitz?

Maharat Rori Picker-Neiss, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, and Mark Etling, an affiliate theology teacher at St. Louis University, will discuss Catholic and Jewish perspectives on faith after the Holocaust from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22 at the Guild Center at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

According to a release on the event, “the horrific evil of the Holocaust is a source of theological reflection for both Jews and Christians even to this day. Are there any limits to God’s tolerance of inhuman behavior? What does the Holocaust tell us about humanity’s capacity for cruelty against our fellow human beings? How has it affected Jewish-Christian relations?”

The program will involve presentations on the theological and historical implications of the Holocaust from the perspectives of these two religious scholars.

The cost to attend is $15. To register or for information, call the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, 618-394-6270 or email [email protected].

Sisterly love

Most of us would do anything (as long as it was legal) to help our sister or brother, even if that sister happens to be a sister city. So it should come as no surprise that when wildfires ravaged roughly 32,000 acres in the northern half of Israel late last year, nearly leveling the Megiddo Region, the Jewish Federations of St. Louis and Atlanta quickly found a way to help their sister city of Yokneam-Megiddo.

The leadership of both federations approved an emergency grant of $10,000 each in response to the recent fires.

“It is our hope that this combined $20,000 will help to address some of the more immediate damage requiring repair,” read a statement from Jewish Federation of St. Louis to officials of Megiddo. “This contribution comes from our community to express our solidarity with you all at this difficult time and to demonstrate our sense of closeness and partnership that has been built up over many years between St. Louis and Megiddo.”

In addition, students at the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School collected funds to show their support for the region as part of a Hanukkah tzedakah project.

Itzik Holbeski, head of the Megiddo Regional Council, responded with a note of thanks, which said:“We want to thank you and the people of St. Louis and Atlanta for the moral support and the emergency grant your Federations’ leadership has approved to give us in this difficult time. The fires have impacted our region with great destruction, and only by cooperation of the settlements and the security forces it ended without casualties. This money will definitely help us repair the more immediate damage.

“We are so moved by your willingness to stand with us and help us. We’re so happy to know we have such close friends in America.”

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