Jewish Muslim Day of Service | Invocation

Jewish Muslim Day of Service | Invocation

Editor’s Note:What follows is an invocation given by Rabbi Justin Kerber for the Jewish Muslim Day of Service, Jewish Federation, in Saint Louis, Missouri on December 25, 2011.

December 25, 2011; the 29th of Kislev (5th of Chanukah), 5772; 30 MuHarram 1433

Hi –I’m Rabbi Justin Kerber, from Temple Emanuel – and I long for the day when this will be pointless.

That’s right: I am longing for the day when the very notion of Jews and Muslims joining together (with other people of good faith) to serve the most miserable, downtrodden, lonely or unfortunate on the most joyous day of the Christian calendar will be absurd – simply because there will be no one left to need our help.

Oh, we’ll still do it, of course.  Good habits die very, very hard.

We’ll carefully collect protein-rich, nutritious and appetizing food and bring it down to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, Operation Backpack, and the ___.  And they’ll laugh in our faces.

“A hungry child?” they’ll sneer. “Why, we haven’t seen that in years!”

And we’ll say, “we know.  (beat)  We just like to hear it.”

We’ll bring cosmetics and toiletries to the battered women’s shelter…

They’ll say, “Battered women? What kind of spouse or partner or lover would do such a thing?”

And we’ll say, [wink – invite the group to join in on the refrain] “we know.  (beat)  We just like to hear it.”

We’ll bring brightly colored paints and stuffed animals and large-print books to freshen up the rec room for seniors in need

They’ll say, “No thanks, got all we need.  Say, why don’t you take it down to the Defense Department? We hear they’re hurting pretty bad!”

And we’ll say, “we know.  (beat)  We just like to hear it.”

We’ll send our press release to KDSK (or whatever news media is covering the event) and they’ll say,

“Kid, in the news business, if it bleeds, it leads.  And there hasn’t been any blood spilled between Jews and Muslims since the St. Louis Peace Accords ended the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and established the Concordat of Canaan”

And we’ll say… (that’s right!).

When I tell you I don’t just yearn for this great day, I fully expect to see it, I hear that mocking laugh. Naïve, they call me when I say so. Well, I’ve been called worse.

Naïve? Really?

Look around this room this morning, this Christmas morning (Merry Christmas, all you Christian friends and family!).  Here we are, in real life: Muslims and Jews together, ready to carry out the will of our God— Bismillah el rahman el rahim – in the name of a merciful G1d, a compassionate G!d, and not in the name of some deranged god of territorial expansion, vengeance, and violence.

Here we are, Jews, Muslims and allies alike;  ready, willing, and able to fulfill the sacred imperative to engage in tikkun olam: to act as God’s partners in order to heal, repair, and transform God’s world.

This is no dream.  The reality of a bold, generous new day without want and without fear is dawning, right here, right now.

Once, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed his children would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Just days ago, I personally witnessed an African-American incumbent President campaigning to a Jewish audience declared proudly that his was the most Israel friendly administration in history.  Rev. King and his close friend and ally Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel would not have believed their eyes and ears.

Once, Theodor Herzl promised that an independent and free homeland for Jews was no dream if we would but want it badly enough.  Today, Israel is free and independent, even if it still falls far short of the ideals of the Biblical prophets of being a light unto the nations.

Once, the Soviet Union walled off the very heart of a city that had once been the most cultured in Europe, and drew an iron curtain across a continent that shut off the light for half a century. Yet people of faith, Jews, Christians, and Muslims kept the light of hope burning until suddenly the curtain fell on the final act of that particular horror.

So why’s it so hard to believe in miracles?

I’ll challenge all of us to do this again — before next Christmas. (Rev. King’s birthday is coming up!) While we’re at it, let’s make it carbon-neutral, too.

Be sure to make a friend today – be sure to befriend and agree to stay in contact with at least one other person you have never met before.  Be sure to share something of your own faith tradition as well as to learn something of your new partner’s. Be sure to remain in dialogue after today.  Be sure you both come back to the next day of service and bring some more allies.  Be sure to thank __, ___, and ___, who have done so much to make this Day possible.  Let’s all join them in saying:

Blessed be the Holy One, for giving us this opportunity to heal, repair and transform our world. Blessed be the Holy One, who has enlivened us, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this day.

Read this news article on the Jewish Muslim Day of Service.

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