CRC invited faith community for sweets in the Sukkah

September 30, 2013

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Bishop Fred Hill, Josephina Smigielski, Beatriz and George Amberman, Rabbi Israel Zoberman, and Pastor Veronica Coleman.

Bishop Fred Hill, Josephina Smigielski, Beatriz and George Amberman, Rabbi Israel Zoberman, and Pastor Veronica Coleman.

The custom of inviting guests to share a meal in the temporary dwelling known as a sukkah, during the festival of Sukkot, became an opportunity to share Jewish traditions with other faith communities in Tidewater.

The Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater hosted Sweets in The Sukkah on Monday, Sept. 23. Beneath the thatched roof and within the four cloth walls of the structure built behind the Sandler Family Campus, a group of interfaith leaders gathered to mingle, learn, build relationships, and enjoy a dessert reception.

“The sukkah is a literal experience of God’s grace,” Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz explained before reciting blessings with the guests. “It’s a great way to remember that there are people who don’t have roofs over the their heads… and a great way to think about hunger and poverty that we may not otherwise think about.”

More than 50 community and clergy members were present, including rabbis, cantors, pastors, priests, imams and bishops. Some guests traveled from as far away as Williamsburg and Richmond to attend.

The guest speaker for the event, Rabbi Steve Gutow, is president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, the public policy and community relations coordinating agency of the American Jewish community. The CRC is part of the nationwide JCPA network, which works together to heighten community awareness, encourage civic and social involvement, and deliberate key issues of importance to the Jewish community.

“Our job of people of faith is to worry about the poor, the widow, the sick, the stranger—we are here to worry about the most vulnerable, and where better than right here?” Gutow said. “This sukkah represents vulnerability—not very stable walls, a roof where you can look up and see the stars—and it is a recognition of our limitations and our dependence on God. If God’s here, it doesn’t matter what church you’re in, or in what mosque, or what synagogue or what house—because God is here.”

Gutow quoted passages from the Torah, shared stories, and urged those present to make a difference in the lives of people in Tidewater, in America, and in the world.

“Whether we’re Jewish, or Christian or Sikh or Muslim or Hindu or Agnostic—and the list goes on—the creator of all kindness expects us to learn how to love each other, to understand each others’ hearts, and to build a world that God has called upon us to build. That world,” he added, “is a just world and a kind world.”

Beatriz Amberman, a leader of Tidewater’s Hispanic community, said she found the sukkah beautiful, its message relevant and was grateful to receive the CRC’s invitation to attend the interfaith celebration.

“I have seen first hand what people go through in difficult times, so I know what Rabbi Gutow means by gathering under the sukkah,” Amberman said. “Working together to help others is a wonderful example set by my brothers and sisters in the Jewish community, and I call them brothers and sisters because they are always there for us when we need them. A lot of the investment that the Jewish community makes is so much more than money—it’s time, it’s heart, and in the Hispanic community, it makes a difference. With the support of the Jewish community, we know we are not alone.”

by Laine Rutherford

Letter to the Editor