Catholics, Jews find sol­i­dar­ity in can­dle­light

Hanukkah speak­ers from both re­li­gions call for unity amid rise in hate crimes

San Antonio Express-News - - METRO - By Elaine Ayala STAFF WRITER

Two by two, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of San An­to­nio’s Catholic and Jewish com­mu­ni­ties lit can­dles on a meno­rah Thurs­day to mark not only Hanukkah but the long-stand­ing ties be­tween them.

The event, held in San Fer­nando Cathe­dral Hall, was not only in its 17th year but was the largest ever, said Rabbi Emer­i­tus Sa­muel Stahl of Tem­ple Beth-El, who noted the shared history that pre­dated it.

“The story of the CatholicJewish re­la­tion­ship dates back to be­fore Vatican II,” he said.

Tem­ple Beth-El, the old­est sy­n­a­gogue in the city, was founded in 1874, Stahl said, the same year as the Dio­cese of San An­to­nio, span­ning more than 140 years of co­ex­is­tence.

Spon­sored by the cathe­dral and the Jewish Fed­er­a­tion of San An­to­nio, this year’s cel­e­bra­tion of the Fes­ti­val of Lights fo­cused on in­creased sol­i­dar­ity be­tween Chris­tians and Jews against the rise of U.S. hate crimes, white na­tion­al­ism and an­tiSemitism. Sev­eral speak­ers made ref­er­ence to the Oct. 27 shoot­ings of 11 con­gre­gants at the Tree of Life Sy­n­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh, con­sid­ered the dead­li­est at­tacks on Jews in U.S. history.

As it has in other years, the Hanukkah lun­cheon cel­e­bra­tion was part master class in Jewish and Catholic history and the­ol­ogy.

Key­note speaker Sis­ter Mary C. Boys, an ex­pert in Jewish-Catholic re­la­tions from the Union The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, drew sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the eight days of Hanukkah and the four weeks of Ad­vent, which both re­quire the light­ing of can­dles in trib­ute to God.

Boys called on Catholics to light meno­rahs in unity with their Jewish brothers and sis-

ters. She drew on the ex­am­ple of an­other anti-Semitic at­tack, in 1993, that gal­va­nized the town of Billings, Mo., after a brick was thrown through a win­dow of a Jewish home dis­play­ing a meno­rah.

She said a news­pa­per ed­i­to­rial called on Billings res­i­dents of every faith to fight back by dis­play­ing meno­rahs in their win­dows “now un­til Christ­mas.” The Billings Gazette even pub­lished a full-page meno­rah, she said.

“Let all the world know that the na­tional ha­tred of a few can­not de­stroy what all of us in Billings, and in Amer­ica, have worked to­gether so long to build,” Boys said, quot­ing the ed­i­to­rial.

“My ques­tion to­day is, what is my per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity?” she said. “The world has to be dif­fer­ent than it is now, and we have to par­tic­i­pate. Use the oc­ca­sions of Hanukkah and Ad­vent to grow closer to each other.”

For all their dif­fer­ences be­tween those cel­e­bra­tions, Boys said, there’s unity in that shared can­dle­light.

In his open­ing prayer, Arch­bishop Gus­tavo Gar­cíaSiller made a sim­i­lar ref­er­ence. Cel­e­brat­ing the Fes­ti­val of Lights com­forts us be­cause light comfort us, he said.

“Guide our path­ways,” Gar­cía-Siller said. “Strengthen our re­la­tion­ship, fill th­ese days, our hearts, with joy.”

Among the duos paired to light a can­dle on the meno­rah were Rabbi Jef­frey Abra­ham of Con­gre­ga­tion Agu­das Achim and Sis­ter Denise LaRock, a leader in the In­ter­faith Wel­come Coali­tion’s bus sta­tion min­istry, which as­sists im­mi­grants re­leased from fed­eral de­ten­tion cen­ters.

“Events like this are im­por­tant be­cause we get a chance to gather to­gether and learn from each other’s tra­di­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences and value each other’s be­liefs and her­itage,” said re­tired teacher Peggy Leff, who was at­tend­ing her sec­ond Hanukkah lun­cheon.

Univer­sity of Texas at San An­to­nio se­nior Noel Mon­tene­gro, 22, agreed. Change can arise from “the lit­tlest of cir­cum­stances” such as break­ing bread to­gether, he said.

“When it comes down to it,” Mon­tene­gro said, “we’re not as dif­fer­ent as we think we are.”

“When it comes down to it, we’re not as dif­fer­ent as we think we are.” Noel Mon­tene­gro, UTSA se­nior

Photos by Bob Owen / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Rabbi Ben Richards of Los An­ge­les and Catholic nuns join oth­ers to pray be­fore eat­ing a lunch cel­e­brat­ing Hanukkah on Thurs­day, when Catholics and Jews gath­ered for the 17th an­nual Hanukkah cel­e­bra­tion at San Fer­nando Cathe­dral Hall.

Sis­ter Denise LaRock of the In­ter­faith Wel­come Coali­tion lights meno­rah can­dles with Rabbi Jef­frey Abra­ham of Con­gre­ga­tion Agu­das Achim on Thurs­day.

Bob Owen / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Arch­bishop Gus­tavo Gar­cía-Siller chats with Lynn Stahl be­fore a Catholic-Jewish lun­cheon on Thurs­day.

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