A pastor and a rabbi walked into a… That sounds like the beginning of a joke, but in my experience it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
A couple of months ago the rostered staff received word that Lancaster was gaining two rabbis to the area. Rabbis Rami Pavolotzky and Daniela Szuster and their children made a tremendously faithful move from serving in Costa Rica to serving at Temple Beth El in East Petersburg.
We first read about their arrival in an LNP newspaper article last December. We quickly reached out to them and welcomed them to the area. Then we took advantage of their precious time and invited them to talk about their experience as rabbis as well as the Jewish faith.
And thus a rabbi and a pastor walked into a Lutheran church on February 14, 2016. Rabbi Rami led the Faith and Values Christian education class. After speaking a bit about himself and his wife and their responsibilities as rabbis he answered a number of questions from the class about the Jewish faith, Judaism in America, issues in Israel and many more. It was a great experience for the class and I really appreciated Rabbi Rami taking his time to be with us.
Fast forward a few months later and Pastor Craig and I received invitations to the rabbis’ installation. We gladly sent our RSVP and thus a couple of pastors and rabbis walked into a synagogue on June 26, 2016. The installation service was beautiful, and I particularly appreciated the music. The service began with the Hatikva, meaning “The Hope.” It is Israel’s national anthem adopted in 1948, but it has been the song of the people for much longer. Take a listen:
Congregants and community members were told the story of the rabbis long journey. This pastor was amazed. I thought my family’s journey from the Toledo, Ohio area was a trek, but the Rabbis and leaders of Beth El had to navigate the call process, a car accident that severely hurt Rabbi Daniela, delayed interviews, visa and homeland security challenges, and let us not forget the major shift in culture from a South American country to a North American one nestled in the quaint idiosyncratic county we know as Lancaster. It was clear from this visitor that the people and the rabbis were delighted that it all worked out.
The rabbis were installed by Rabbi Richard Hammerman, a leader of the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism. He had wise words to share to rabbis and the faith community, and then turned the service over to Rabbis Rami and Daniela who led the people in the Shema.
The Shema is a beautifully sung prayer that comes from Deuteronomy 6:4 and serves as the centerpiece for prayers during worship.
The rabbis spoke about they and the faith community growing together and referred to the tools given to them by God. They spoke about how both rabbi and laity were called to use the tools of friendship, dedication, energy, hope, love and leadership. Their message sounded similar to the ones I’ve heard from the rostered staff and leaders at St. Peter’s.
They used terms like tools and we may use terms like spiritual gifts , but God’s hope and desire for God’s people remain the same!
The last piece of music that the community sang together is called the Al Kol Eileh and asks for blessing, protection and God’s presence through the bitter and sweet journey of life. A truly fitting blessing for a religious leader and their people. Take a listen!
Rabbi Hammerman ended the installation service with these words (they may sound familiar to your ears),
The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.
A rabbi and a pastor walked into a…growing relationship. We pray for the health of the ministry at Temple Beth El and also pray for the relationship that the rostered leaders of St. Peter’s may share with the leaders of Temple Beth El.
May the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace,