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Coming together in hope and thanksgiving in Elgin

Updated: December 24, 2012 6:21AM

Religious leaders coming together in hope and thanksgiving in Elgin

On Sunday, 260 people gathered at Congregation Kneseth Israel for the Coalition of Elgin Religious Leaders’ (CERL) annual Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, “Coming Together in Hope and Thanksgiving.”

We had Jews, Christians and Muslims, blacks, whites, Asians, Indians, Hispanics, Latinos, children and senior citizens, rich and poor expressing our gratitude even in these hard economic times.

We sang in English, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish. We heard church bells, the call of the shofar (ram’s horn) and the Muslim call to prayer. We shared music, reflections and cider. We made scarves for the Community Crisis Center and PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) and collected non-perishable food and monies. It was beautiful. It was enriching. It was uplifting.

My mind, however, was 6,000 miles away in a land many of us call holy, where at the moment people can’t seem to find a way to come together like we did in Elgin, where bombs are raining down in the night sky and where people on both sides live in constant fear.

Yehuda Amichai said, “Don’t stop after beating the swords into plowshares, don’t stop! Go on beating and make musical instruments out of them. Whoever wants to make war again will have to turn them into plowshares first.” That’s what we did Sunday night. We made music. It would have been impossible to make war after that.

I am not a military strategist. I am a rabbi and a mother. I write this as a new citizen of Elgin, not as a representative of my congregation. I want to put my children and grandchildren to bed at night knowing that they will live to see another day, that they will grow up knowing peace and not fear or hatred.

I call on both sides to stop the bombing. Just stop. To not use children as human shields. To return to the peace table. I call on the Obama administration to be an active participant in this process. To continue diplomacy. As I write this, I have learned that Secretary of State Clinton is on her way back to the Middle East. That is an encouraging sign. I call on the media to report fairly and accurately. Israel as a sovereign nation has the absolute right to defend herself. Before last Wednesday’s bombings, Israel has endured more than 130 missiles fired into southern Israel launched from Gaza.

The CERL Interfaith Thanksgiving Service brings me hope. There is much to be thankful for this season. I am thankful for CERL and its leadership for providing an alternative to hatred and fear. May its model be one that we can share worldwide, where a Muslim man can give the call to prayer from a Jewish pulpit while the church bells peacefully sound across the street.

May the God that we worshipped together make peace in the high heavens and here on Earth for all peoples.

Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein


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