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“In response to the unfolding event at Sinai—a Sinai of mind and heart, to be sure—we Israelites said ‘Yes!’ in a firm and committed way.”

This is how Dr. Rabbi Arthur Green, a major contemporary Jewish theologian, in his book Radical Judaism imagines the ancient Israelites responded to God’s offer of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. He continues, conceiving of the way which Jews’ choice to accept a covenantal relationship with their God positioned them vis-à-vis other people in the world:

“Here is the great lesson of love: the more you give, the more you receive. To open yourself to serve others as a channel of divine grace, to bring light and blessing into their lives, is endlessly rewarding. The more light you shine forth, the more comes pouring through. The inner wellspring is one whose ‘waters do not betray’ and never run dry. This is all I have by way of faith in reward. And it is plenty.”

What is true for Arthur Green should be true for us here in Dayton; and, to quote some well-known words of Hillel from Pirkei Avot, we might imagine a personified Jewish community asking, “If I am only for myself, what am I?” In other words, while the Jewish community must work to ensure its own safety, well-being, and development, it must do far more than that to avail itself of the full, value-rich intellectual tradition that Judaism is meant to herald.

A central aspect of the JCRC’s vision is broadening the nexus by which those in the Jewish community can act as partners with members of other diverse groups in the area. Connecting with people whose lives reflect experiences that may be different than our own creates opportunities for collaborative learning, growth, and support.

…while the Jewish community must work to ensure its own safety, well-being, and development, it must do far more than that to avail itself of the full, value-rich intellectual tradition that Judaism is meant to herald.

~ Rabbi Ari Ballaban
JCRC Director

…while the Jewish community must work to ensure its own safety, well-being, and development, it must do far more than that to avail itself of the full, value-rich intellectual tradition that Judaism is meant to herald.

~ Rabbi Ari Ballaban
JCRC Director

…while the Jewish community must work to ensure its own safety, well-being, and development, it must do far more than that to avail itself of the full, value-rich intellectual tradition that Judaism is meant to herald.

~ Rabbi Ari Ballaban
JCRC Director

The vibrancy of our local Jewish community is strengthened by the many ways that those in the Jewish community seek, to paraphrase Green’s words, to “spread the love.” When the JCRC recently partnered with Dayton’s YWCA and other diverse groups to create programming for Women Leading a Dialogue—Israeli visitors of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian backgrounds—our coming-together was, as Green might have put it, “endlessly rewarding.” When Jewish Federation’s CEO, Cathy Gardner’s, response to an unsettling prayer at the NCCJ annual dinner was not to seek conflict, but instead to meet with leaders of the Black Evangelical community to create greater mutual understanding, it was an example of “spreading the light.” As the JCRC now plans programming for the future—including events we specifically are designing to create opportunities for what we call “critical conversations”—I know, at least for me, that the “rewards” for our work, visible in the bridges we build, are quite clearly “plenty!”

To the extent that we as a Jewish community engage with the ethical imperatives of our Jewish tradition, making inroads to those in diverse communities, we implicitly reaffirm the essence of the Jewish people’s eternal, Sinaitic covenant. Our work by its very nature intrinsically represents an unspoken answer to an eternal, theoretical question asked of the Jewish people, a question implicitly raised by the essence of Jewish history: Will we be partners in making the world a better place?

As at Sinai, our answer remains “Yes!”

For more information about the Jewish Community Relations Council, please contact Rabbi Ari Ballaban, JCRC Director at  (937) 610-1555 or aballaban@jfgd.net.

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