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Riches by the Pocketful

Hadassah Magazine November 2008

Like my grandfather, I am a proud Jew and a proud American, but there is something else in my pocket that defines who I am. Though I am a rabbi of a congregation, I don't carry the keys to a synagogue in my pocket. Instead, I carry the keys to a church--the Brookville Reformed Church on the North of Long Island, founded over 270 years ago. For over 10 years Reverend Allan Ramirez and his congregation have allowed my community to meet there for Shabbat and holidays. I doubt the original founders of this church could have imagined that one day a rabbi would lead a Jewish congregation in song and prayer, that the Hebrew words of the Jewish tradition and the melodies of my grandfather's past would fill the church sanctuary. This, too, is what is good and noble about this country. Here in the United States, a church can help sustain a synagogue. Christians can say to Jews, "Come, fill our home with your melodies." Some days I look out of the window of my study and I see my son, Ari, and his best friend, Hugh O'Connor, sitting on the curb talking. Ari tells me that they are talking about religion. I suspect they are talking about girls and sports. As I watch them, I reach into my pocket and finger the church keys. They are a reminder that in the United States it is natural and normal that a Jew and a Christian are best friends. One day soon, my synagogue will have its own building. Still, I hope Reverend Ramirez will let me to keep the church keys so that they might forever remain in my pocket and forever remind me of what I love about this country to which my grandparents brought my family.

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