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Interfaith Milestone

May 2, 2016

It may have rained, but that didn't dampen spirits at the 13th annual Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation, which brings together Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and people of other faiths. The goal is to "facilitate peace, justice, and reconciliation by engaging faith groups and communities in dialogue, reflection, action ..." Each year, the walk is held in a different section of the city and features stops at several houses of worship.

Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Ph.D., who directs RRCs multifaith studies program, has long served on the planning committee. RRC student  David Eber spoke at the rally's first stop, Saint Athanasius Church in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia.

Here is David's speech:

Shalom, Saalam, Peace.

Good afternoon everyone. I am honored to be speaking to you all today here at beautiful Athanasius Church. Thank you to all the organizers, speakers and performers for your uplifting words and songs.

Today is a special day to speaking to the Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation, for it is your 13th year, which means that today, you are a Bar Mitzvah!

Some of you in this room have had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah and probably quite a few of you have attended one. As I try to stress to my Bar and Bat Mitzvah students; becoming a Bar Mitzvah is about so much more than having party. Though, you throw a pretty good party from what I can see!

Becoming a Bar Mitzvah means becoming a responsible member of the community. It means that you now have the responsibility of fulfilling your own ritual and spiritual commitments and that you participate in the public life of the community as a full member with all the rights and responsibilities.

In fact, this concept of responsibility for the community goes further in the Jewish Legal concept concerning guarantorship, like a guarantor of a loan who pays the bank when you can’t pay. We have a phrase in the Talmud which says, “Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh la-zeh,” meaning that every Jew is responsible for one another. In Judaism, this concept of guarantorship is known as Arvut. It means that, although I may have fulfilled my individual obligation, if there is another person who hasn’t fulfilled theirs, then my obligation hasn’t truly been fulfilled!

This concept of arvut is rather audacious and can therefore be scary. For it seems to mean that If there is a Jew somewhere in the world who hasn’t recited the blessing over the wine on Friday night (and I can assure you there are many of them), then I myself have not fully freed myself of my own obligation even though I have recited the blessing!

Why should I be obligated in the obligations of others? Although most of us believe in altruism, altruism is not the same as Arvut, which declares that I am responsible for others just as I am responsible for myself. It is not charity for them, but rather it is collective self-interest. Their destiny is bound up with mine.

It is clear to all of us here today at the interfaith peace walk, that we are not just responsible for those people in our own particular communities. To be a responsible adult in today’s society means to be engaged across lines of difference. It means to be in solidarity with those among us who are facing oppression and facing hard times. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said eloquently, in two different quotes, first that, “We are bound together in a single garment of destiny,” and second, “that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Having just come out of Passover, where the Israelites obtained their freedom with God’s help, the freedom achieved was not freedom for its own sake alone. It was the freedom to create a community of the highest vision. A community that marches together for peace.

I wish you all blessings and a hearty mazel tov on becoming a Bar Mitzvah!


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