Peace Is Where You Make It
Rabbi Daniel A. Roberts
Temple Beth Israel
It was a wonderful and intriguing evening last month as my wife, Elaine and I, joined other members from the Youngstown-Sharon area, including Rabbi Frank and Darlene Muller, Andy and Hilari Lipkin and other leaders at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Richard H. Dorman, President of Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa. As many of you know, Westminster College was founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Right In our own backyard, this fine college ranks first in the nation as "Best College for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," according to Forbes.com and holds top honors among liberal arts schools. It has been my pleasure for the last several years to conduct a model Seder on the campus for those students interested in knowing about other religions. I have found the Westminster staff to be delightful, particularly going out of their way to find Matza, to serve a meal that was appropriate, and even to get special dispensation for students to drink wine at the Seder since Westminster is a dry campus. I always love the questions that the students ask during the evening.
However, we were not there for a Seder at this time of year. We were there to witness an historic moment in the life of the college. Several years ago, under the leadership of Dr. Dorman and particularly because of a friendship between one of their Education Professors, Amy Camardese, and Myra and Bill Benedikt of the Youngstown Jewish community, a partnership was formed with Western Galilee College in Akko, Israel. Western Galilee College under the direction of Prof. Gideon Fishman was established “to serve the population of the north-western region of Israel, and it forms a unique academic entity from many perspectives.” The College’s mission has been to help develop the region by strengthening the population through education. It aims to encourage capable individuals of every background and religious belief to settle and stay in the North. The College is committed to the community and works in cooperation with local leaders and organizations to enable growth and prosperity in the Western Galilee.
With identical missions of exploring the widest possible experiences for their students and faculty and to expand and strengthen areas of disciplines, the two colleges signed a letter of cooperation. The new cooperative program is aptly titled “Bridges” and works to build bridges across the ocean. Writes Dr. Sherri Pataki, a member of Temple Beth Israel and a professor of Peace Studies at Westminster: “The partnership for me has been particularly meaningful because it has given me an additional connection to the Jewish community and Israel through my job. This is something that I never would have anticipated when I took a faculty position at a small, church related college in the middle of rural, western Pennsylvania.”
The evening was made so special by watching the interaction between the dozen or so professors from Western Galilee and their Westminster colleagues. During their week of meetings, these colleagues met in small groups and in seminars to plan how they could cooperate in research and other collaborative opportunities. In a very touching moment, Prof. Gideon Fishman presented Dr. Dorman with a replica of an ancient oil lamp to symbolically light the way as the two colleges work together in search of truth and reason. At the opening dinner for the Annual Workshop, the two presidents signed an historic document in front of a large mosaic tile of two doves given by the Israelis as a gift to Westninister and which will be permanently installed in the student lounge. I found that evening to be a very emotional moment of peace building.
Who would have imagined a few short years ago that a Presbyterian college in Pennsylvania and an Israeli college in the Galilee would be engaged in such a relationship? In this way, everyone gains. It was truly “one small step for mankind!” This is just one piece of evidence that Peace is truly wherever you want to make it. Oh, should others learn from this lesson of cooperation.