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Rabbi Pinsker


Interfaith Event at Shaarey Zedek Brings Together People from Diverse Backgrounds

By Matthew Ostrove, with notes from the Winnipeg Jewish Review, June 29, 2010

“Every human being has a spark and the goal of another human being is to lift that spark up, not bring it down like a low tide that lowers ships,” says Rabbi Lawrence Pinsker.

When I think about this sentence, which I heard recently at the wedding of my good friends, Gustavo and Karina, it represents for me exactly what the June 18 interfaith Shabbat dinner at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue was all about.

This Interfaith dinner was a lead-up event up to the inaugural World Religions Summit, held in Winnipeg June 21-23 at The University of Winnipeg, to coincide with the G8 being held in Toronto. The interfaith event, designed to celebrate diverse faiths under one roof, began with a Shabbat service and the singing of Shabbat Shalom, a celebratory song of peace and harmony that traditionally welcomes the Sabbath.

Many Winnipeg dignitaries, from both the political field and the spiritual field, attended the service. For some of them, it was their first time inside a synagogue.

Among those in attendance were Canadian Museum for Human Rights trustee Gail Asper; Conservative MP Shelly Glover; MLA for Kirkfield Park Sharon Blady; Liberal MP Anita Neville; Federal Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews; mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis; and provincial LIberal leader Jon Gerrard.

“It was an inspiring evening to see leaders of many faiths and politicians working together to achieve a focus on the Millennium Development Goal," Gerrad said. "For my part, as a provincial leader, it was an opportunity to look not only around the world, but to consider here at home how we can better address the important issues of poverty and child and maternal health.  We need to do better in Manitoba as we have been falling behind other provinces.”

Those in attendance from the faith community included Archbishop James Weisgerber; Dr. Rev.Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches; Dr. Mothinder Dhillon representing the Indo-Canadian community; Father Sam Arginzano from Holy Rosary Church; Mead Simon from the local Bahai Community; Mennonite Church of Canada Communciations Director Dan Dyck; Director of the Institute for Community Peacebuilding at Canadian Mennonite University David Pankrat; His Eminence Metropolitan John, Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada; His Grace Bishop Andriy, Vicar of the Central EH-par-chy, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada; Lawrence D. Huculak, Archbishop, Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Winnipeg; Rev. Donna Joy of Winnipeg's St. Peter’s Anglican Church; Rabbi Neal Rose from the University of Manitoba; and Dr. Asad U  Khan, president of the Islamic Foundation of Manitoba.

“The dinner was a great occasion and it was an evening of spirituality, friendly ambience and good food,” Dr. Khan noted.

Many of the same people were in attendance the following day when the World Religions Summit began at the university. Among many notable speakers, Rev. Dr James Christie, Dean of Theology at the University of Winnipeg, stressed the need to build a ‘Rosetta stone,’ or a common global language for peace.

In an interview prior to the G8  religious summit taking place, Dan Dyck, Director of Communications of the Mennonite Church of Canada, who was at the Shaarey Zedek interfaith dinner, told the  Winnipeg Jewish Review that the idea of  the summit came about as a result of a “Christian-only  ecumenical gathering [in 2005] initiated by Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine that met in parallel to the G8 political leaders Summit.” 

Dyck noted that the main Summit was convening over 50 religious leaders from around the world “to discuss the role all faiths in holding the G8 political leaders accountable to the pledges made by their countries (ten years ago) to the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. The pledging nations are about two-thirds of the way through the time mandate (the pledges end in 2015) but have achieved about one-half of their commitments. The G8 nations pledged to support eight MDG’s, which in broad strokes seek to reduce hunger, develop universal education, achieve a sustainable environment, and address gender inequalities and child and maternal health issues, and HIV AIDS. The world’s major faiths have found focus for this collaboration around acommon sacred teaching often called the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would want to betreated.”

Dyck also explained that he was invited to lead the Communications Team, one of several teams for the World Religions Summit.  “The Communications Team, made up entirely of volunteers, is represented by people of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions. An InterfaithPartnership Steering Group provided oversight to all the teams.The Canadian Council of Conservative Synagogues and the Canadian Jewish Federation are members of the InterfaithPartnership Steering Group.”

When asked how Winnipeg was chosen as the city to host the religious summit,  Dyck responded “Winnipeg was chosen for a number of reasons. It is home to the headquarters of numerous faith  traditions and organizations. It is culturally and religiously diverse. Winnipeg has been and continues to be significantly shaped by people of faith. For example, Manitoba has accepted more refugees per capita than any other province. This has been in large part due to the compassionate actions of people of faith. 

Additionally, he noted “Religious organizations tend be frugal and need to meet in an affordable location. Heavy security around the G8 political leaders summit generally prevents peripheral groups from meeting at the host site. Winnipeg is geographically central.”

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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