Saturday, October 31, 2009

How Human Rights Ought To Be Dealt With

How A Wise Rabbi Dealt with Discrimination

Mitch Albom is well known for writing "Tuesdays with Morrie". Soon he will be as well known for his latest work, "have a little faith." It is the story of how his childhood rabbi, Rabbi Albert Lewis asked him to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. As it happened, the rabbi asked him 8 years before he died, giving Albom plenty of time to get to know his rabbi better.

Among the stories that he recounts, are instances of how the Jewish people of Haddon Heights, New Jersey were discriminated against, and how Rabbi Lewis dealt with it. Oh, that we should deal with discrimination like this today and here, rather than letting the government do it.

When Rabbi Lewis was appointed to the small synagogue in 1948, he found there was considerable angst among Christians about a Jewish congregation in their midst. There was no HRC to whine to, and in NJ there still isn't, so the rabbi took it upon himself to do something good about it. He joined the local ministerium, and set out to meet people where they were at, speaking in classrooms to students who wanted to see his horns, and being a friend to all.

One time during the High Holidays that happened this particular year to coincide with Sunday mass at the Catholic Church in the neighbourhood, one of his congregants was accosted by the local priest who was offended that there was limited parking for his congregation, as it was taken up by the Jewish participants in the High Holiday festivities at the synagogue. The priest was abusive in his anger and even said in a fit of pique: "They didn't exterminate enough of you."

Rabbi Lewis contacted the local archbishop about the incident, and received a call the next day from the priest wanting to meet. The priest apologized and shared with the rabbi an idea that the archbishop had told him.

So, shortly thereafter, when the local Catholic school had recess, the rabbi and priest walked around the school grounds arm in arm, as per the archbishop's suggestion. The priest and rabbi became friends, and finally when the priest died, Rabbi Lewis assisted in officiating at his Catholic funeral.

That's how disputes over human rights should be handled.

What we do now is lazy. There is no wisdom in the bullying of HRCs. We need to return to simpler times, with less government intervention in our daily lives.

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