-- By Jackie Campbell, Communications Director--
PITTSBURGH, PA -- There was a visible police presence and a packed sanctuary at Christ United Methodist Church in suburban Bethel Park on Oct. 28 for Tolerance is Not Enough, an afternoon forum featuring a keynote address by an Ohio rabbi who spent years promoting interfaith understanding. Scheduled a few months ago, the relevance and urgency of the forum’s message was underscored when an armed man entered a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, killing 11 and wounding six others, including four responding police officers.
“Words are difficult, but not impossible (after the synagogue massacre),” said Rabbi Abie Ingber, a life-long advocate for immigrant and refugee rights who founded and recently retired as executive director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University in Cincinnati. “Up until yesterday, I believed that in the seven days of creation, humans were the pinnacle. Maybe we are not the pinnacle of God’s creation. We were the last things created...but...we have to get our priorities right.
“We must build effective utilitarian bridges. In a diverse world, we aspired to tolerance. That was it!” he said. “But another human being...created in the image of God, we should just tolerate? Does that really work when you believe that every person is created in the image of God and is a child of God? We must celebrate them! The road to tolerance is the road to failure!”
Instead, the Rabbi said, “Our world needs each one of us to welcome and love each other unconditionally...there can be no exceptions!”
The son of Holocaust survivors, Rabbi Ingber said he comes from a world where love triumphs over hatred. His mother’s entire family was killed and she was one of the last survivors of her Polish town. She was miraculously helped in her escape from Nazis and sheltered by a series of “six righteous Christians.” She met his father in a displaced persons camp. Eventually they settled in Canada.
“It would have been easy to raise me with hatred, but that would not have been my parents way,” the Rabbi said.
“If I had two hearts, I could love with one and hate with the other -- but God gave me one heart and I choose to use it for love,” he declared.
To help heal our communities and bring justice and peace to the world, he said, we must: