The image above comes from the glass panels that adorn the Oppenheimer Foyer as you enter our building. These words are familiar to every Jew, and they come from this week’s Torah portion.
Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad.
Hear, O Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal God is One.
This six-word phrase is one of the most important texts in Jewish life. Traditionally, the Shema is recited twice a day. It provides us with a sense of comfort before we go to sleep at night, establishes a sacred mindset when we wake up in the morning. In reciting these words daily, the Shema helps us connect with Jews around the globe and across generations.
This simple statement of faith also serves to remind us that there is an eternal source of power and energy that pulses through all existence. This divine force links all people and all creation to a single source, which (in our severely fragmented world) is often overlooked.
This past weekend, I had the privilege of joining an amazing group of teens from the Holy Land (the preferred term used by the participants of Jerusalem Peacebuilders/Peace Camp). These remarkable campers spent two weeks working hard on building bridges toward peace. At the core of their work is a mutual recognition of the fact that while Jews, Christians and Muslims may have differing beliefs, God is at the heart of our shared endeavors.
During my brief time at this camp each year, I am inspired, encouraged, and humbled as these brave souls commit themselves to learning from each other. They refuse to allow hatred and violence squelch their hopes for peace, and they refuse to allow religious differences divide them. For these bold young leaders, the Shema’s declaration of unity is a clarion call for all human beings.
These campers will be joining us this Friday night for Shabbat Services. They will share their experiences and maybe even sing a song for us. Bring friends to services to spread a message of hope and learn about this groundbreaking camp and how it strives to build bridges of peace by planting seeds of trust and understanding in the next generation of leadership.