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By Brianna Deigan, Jasmin Rojo, and Alyssa Slager, Communications Interns
July 21, 2015
On Tuesday, July 21st, Rabbi Michael R. Zedek joined the Niagara Foundation for a Friends in Faith discussion. Rabbi Zedek immediately captivated his audience with his witty disposition and made everyone feel comfortable. No stranger to speaking about his faith, Rabbi Zedek previously was the chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and senior rabbi of Temple B’nai Jehudah in Kansas City, Missouri. As a community activist, scholar, and teacher he was a great individual to inform all in attendance of the basic principles in Judaism.
Rabbi Zedek began by bringing attention to the only philosophical question that matters: why not kill yourself? Answering this question is the foundation of most major religions. In regards to Christianity and Islam, the hope is to live a life worthy enough to enter the world of God. Rabbi Zedek then explored Judaism to answer this question.
He describes Judaism as the mother who birthed Christianity and Islam, showcasing their built-in connection seen in their core values. However, like all mother-child relationships, inherent differences exist. One of the Jewish beliefs that vary from the other two Abrahamic religions is their focus on the here and now while living a life that makes a difference. One’s path after death is unclear, therefore people of the Jewish faith place their trust in God and focus on present actions. According to Judaism, every human being is created in the image of the holy one. Illustrating this idea with a story, Rabbi Zedek spoke about a four-year-old girl, who after questioning one of his sermons, realized that God shows through everyone. Each person should want to utilize their inner holiness to lead a significant life.
Another aspect of Judaism that can differ from other religions is its communal culture. When helping young Jewish children write their bar and bat mitzvah speeches, Rabbi Zedek said many responded that the most difficult and unique thing about being Jewish is how different it is. These differences are often what encourages such a strong community, and a family-like environment. Although Rabbi Zedek identifies with reform Judaism, the principles discussed are found in orthodox and conservative branches as well.
On behalf of the Niagara Foundation, we would like to thank Rabbi Zedek for hosting this Friends in Faith roundtable. The laughs shared and the lessons learned will always be remembered.