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Leading The Congregation

Congregation Lev Shalom’s Rabbi Mindie Snyder (left) leads a service in honor of those who lost their lives during the events that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh October 27.

It's not the waking, it's the rising /

It is the grounding of a foot uncompromising /

It's not foregoing of the lie /

It's not the opening of eyes /

It's not the waking, it's the rising /

It's not the shade, we should be past it /

It's the light, and it's the obstacle that casts it /

It's the heat that drives the light /

It's the fire it ignites /

It's not the waking, it's the rising /

It's not the song, it is the singing /

It's the hearing of a human spirit ringing /

It is the bringing of the line /

It is the bearing of the rhyme /

It's not the waking, it's the rising /

And I could cry power (power) /

Power (power) /

Power, Lord /

Nina cried power /

Billie cried power /

Mavis cried power... /

“Nina Cried Power” by Andrew Hozier Byrne (2019)

Last November, the Northern Arizona multi-religious community stood in solidarity with us at Congregation Lev Shalom, professing the power of harmony in diversity, following the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This was made possible because of my deep friendships with the religious leaders in Flagstaff and Kingman, Arizona. I will be forever grateful for their love and support.

When I arrived in Flagstaff to begin my journey as the spiritual leader of Congregation Lev Shalom (formerly Heichal B’oranim / Temple in the Pines), I learned that there was no multi-religious clergy group here. So, I asked my new friends, Rev. Kathleen Day, Rev. Joanne Ginanino, Rev. Jessica Goad, Rev. Ann Johnson and Rev. Kenneth McIntosh, if they would be amenable to forming a group that would, at once, provide mutual support and work together for the greater good. Without any hesitation, they agreed and our first meeting took place at the synagogue in January of 2016. Our group quickly expanded to include Deacon Scott Deasy, Deacon Janetta Beaumont and Rev. Brad Eubanks. I am pleased to share that many others have joined us over the past few years. Today, we have an involved membership of 30 and are continuing to grow.

From now on, each month, a member of Soul Friends will contribute an inspirational article to our Arizona Daily Sun newspaper. I would like to extend my appreciation to Editor Chris Etling for welcoming this idea and making it possible. Introducing ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that are nuanced within a particular religious tradition, yet are firmly rooted in the light of inclusion, is a very important enterprise at any time. But especially today, due to the dramatic increase of expressed hatred and violence in our society, dedication to solidarity between one another is invaluable.

According to the US Justice Department, hate crimes were up overall in 2017, with an increase of 17%. This is the second highest number statistically in US history, just below the aftermath of Sept. 11. Hate crimes targeting religious groups increased 23%. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported an increase in hate crimes directed toward Jews, at 57%. South Asian Americans Leading America reported a 47% increase in hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs, or those thought to be Muslim, or Arab.

“The problem to be faced is:

How to combine loyalty to one's own tradition with reverence for different traditions.”

--Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Our meetings, community programs and reciprocal support are not only in response to increases in hate crimes; we form the counter balance to hatred and ignorance because we genuinely care about one another and share a desire to develop meaningful understanding. It is my joy and pleasure to introduce our Soul Friends to you. I hope your heart, mind and spirit will embrace their words in the months ahead and you will feel included in our wide circle of love and compassion.

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