Wildwood Rabbi Offers Views on Pittsburgh Tragedy

Beth Judah Temple in Wildwood

WILDWOOD – The Herald’s correspondent Rachel Rogish inquired of Rabbi Ron Isaacs his thoughts on the murder in the Pittsburgh, Pa. synagogue and questions of the Wildwood temple.

The following is Isaacs' reply:

Beth Judah has a security system, but we do not have any people (security) standing guarding upon entry into the synagogue. At this point, I do not know whether there is any additional security being considered.

On our High Holidays when we have a substantial increase in attendance, there has been extra security offered by the Wildwood Police force who are on standby during our worship services.

This is common in synagogues across the country since there are many more people in attendance.

Yes, I have personally experienced anti-Semitism in my life and in the lives of my students. I have personally witnessed name calling and anti-Semitic slurs written on synagogue walls.

My students, too, have shared anti-Semitic experiences that they have incurred during our study time together in our Hebrew High School. We discuss causeless hatred in class and even have had workshops bringing in motivating speakers on the subject. 

I have only been with Beth Judah for several years, so I do not know whether there has been a history of anti-Semitism at Beth Judah in years past. 

My hope moving forward is that we as a country can come together and understand that all people have been created equal and that there is no place in our country or in the world for hate crimes of any sort. 

There have been more and more concerted efforts in the school system to talk about hate crimes and what can be done to change a culture of hatred and non-civility. 

Educating people about the dangers of causeless hatred is very important.  Words and what people say have meaning, and often lead to action. We need to remind our families and public leaders that civility is important in discourse and that there is no place in our homes or country for those who hate. 

As a rabbi for almost 45 years, I have tried to have my congregants and students learn about other faiths by having interfaith gatherings as well as comparative religion courses in our Religious School. Over time my congregation developed a strong friendship with a Methodist Church, and at Beth Judah we have already had an interfaith gathering with the Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Erma.

I have a good relationship with its pastors, and some of its members have joined me at Beth Judah for Sabbath worship services. We have in the past had a Freedom Seder at Beth Judah with people of different faith groups in attendance. And we have had Saturday evening fellowship programs that have also drawn Jews and non-Jews to learn about our values and beliefs. 

I even published a book "Questions Christians Ask the Rabbi" in order to teach people about what we have in common, where we differ and how good it feels to be together in terms of  common values. 

The recent tragedy at the Pittsburgh synagogue has spawned interfaith vigils all over the country. These get-togethers of support from the greater community have surely helped those Jewish families that were immediately affected by lost lives and is a way of beginning the process of healing, knowing that there are so many people that care about you when something horrific happens to members of your community. Communication, dialogue, and education is important since in our country and in our world we have so many different religions, ethnicities, and beliefs. 

It is important for people to get to know one another better, and once they do, they often found that they have a lot more in common than they ever thought was possible.

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