The Arts of Thanksgiving: B’nai Jeshurun Congregation, Temple in the Heights.
On a beautiful Fall day, Monday, November 19, before heading to attend an important Interfaith/Intercultural, ethnic event, I asked myself and important question: what happened to Ethnic America, the nation of immigrants? The answer for my question was waiting for me when I entered the big community hall of the B’Nai Jeshurun Congregation. It seems that it didn’t go anywhere! In the temple was the beautiful mosaic of ethnic diversity showcased in a display of more than twenty ethnic, interfaith, and cultural groups that spoke the language of peace, love, and harmony at a most peaceful and greatest season, Christmas and Thanksgiving. I saw and experienced firsthand the beautiful mosaic of over 20 interfaith and intercultural groups showcasing their beautiful cultures, and a line of Folk dance and musical groups by these same people that made everyone inside the hall stand on their feet when the international language of music spoke the peaceful message of love and harmony for all humanity.
“The arts of Thanksgiving featured visual and performing artists from a variety of faiths and cultural backgrounds in a joyous expression of gratitude to God for the many blessings in our lives and the beautiful diversity of our city” and Northeast Ohio that represent over 120 ethnic and cultural groups.
In his welcoming remarks to the attendees inside a packed social hall, Senior Rabbi of the B’Nai Jeshurun Congregation, Temple on the Heights, Mr. Stephen Weiss stated, “it is only in the Fall that we truly come to realize and appreciate how different each leaf is from the next, and that each leaf’s true beauty is found in its uniqueness. The early Rabbis taught that a human king makes one mold and mints coins from it, and every coin is identical. But the King of Kings makes a mold, (Adam and Eve) and every person created from it is different. Those differences reflect the greatness and the glory of God. They are to be cherished.
“We are here tonight to celebrate our differences. We proclaim together that there are many paths to God, to living a Godly life, and to creating a world infused with God’s love and compassion. Each of these paths has its own unique beauty and its own contributions to creating a just and compassionate society. This Fall has been marred by so much tragedy born of hatred. My prayer is that we all leave here tonight with a deeper appreciation of each other, inspired and strengthened in our quest to respond to events with compassion, justice and love.”
Other powerful messages were expressed through arts and other types of professional performances. One of whom was Mr. Irwin Weinberger, with whom we sat to chat and obtain some real insight into the universal art works that echoed and reflected this serene occasion. As he called it - the Artist’s statement, Mr. Weinberger elaborated by saying, “we live in tumultuous times. It is no longer easy to just standby and watch the thread of our country’s fabric unravel. Both of my parents were Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust. I lost countless relatives during this time, including all four grandparents who I never got to meet. This project has been an opportunity to pay homage to the memory of my parents’ story and those who were lost.
“Within the suffering and turmoil of those who fled their homes to save their lives and those who came in search of a better life, we find stories of love, strength and the courage to try and move forward in spite of sever hardships… in the tradition of the great portrait artists, like Rembrandt and Van Gogh, I have attempted to portray the dignity and soul of the immigrant. I also wish to honor the cultures they brought to America in the form of music and dance. In the words of Emma Lazarus, “give us your tired, your hungry, and your poor”. So, as the figures revolve round and round, may we begin to repair this broken world and help rebuild the broken hearts of the immigrants and refugees who are seeking a better life.”
After all, and following my own reflection about the event and the wonderful and diverse people I met and interviewed, I myself had to echo the words of those creative artists and talented professionals and conclude my story by saying: this great diversity that we saw yesterday night defines and adds to our strengths to stand together, united and stating loudly in one unified voice: bigotry and hate have no place in our America, the nation to which the proud immigrants contributed plenty of their talents to add to its greatness again, so that Dreamers, (DACA, Temporary Protective Status, (TPS), and the Refugee populations) will continue to have hope and live the American dream, for which they have been making a lot of sacrifices and relentless efforts to live this dream and translate it into a reality of accomplishments and opportunities.
By, George Koussa
Ethnic Consultant and
Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC