A Rabbi and Priest Stand Together and Pray for Reconciliation

In a Jewish community that has been forced to address the growing reality of anti-Semitism and on the
first anniversary of the shootings in Pittsburgh, two clergy came together with a unique service held in
the Catholic Church of St. Ann’s in East Cobb. Rabbi Albert Slomovitz, the founder of the Jewish Christian
Discovery Center, a non-profit devoted to educating Christians about their Jewish roots and Father
Robert Lwin of the Church held a program focused on Forgiveness and Reconciliation.
The service was prepared jointly by both clergy members and was a combination of Catholic and Jewish
sources. Fr. Lwin spoke about the sacrament of reconciliation and the process undertaken to achieve
understanding with members of other faiths. As the program proceeded, he specifically mentioned
events from the past such as the Crusades, Inquisition and the Holocaust which decimated the Jewish
people. Fr. Lwin also spoke about the religious connections between Jews and Catholics. He described
the Catholic ritual of Confession as having its origins in the Biblical Ten Commandments. He also shared
with the audience that when Catholics begin the Confessional prayer, they strike their breasts in a
similar fashion as Jews do when they recite the Al-Het (For the sin we have committed) prayer at Yom
Rabbi Slomovitz led the congregation in two prayers from the High Holiday Conservative Mahzor. The
first dealt with Biblical figures who turned to God for help in times of trouble. The second one entitled
“Gone” poignantly described the Jewish population of Spain that was forced from their way of life in the
1492 expulsion from that country. A few stanzas help capture the raw emotions involved when an entire
community is forced to leave their ancestral homes.
Judah and Israel, know how bitter I am;
as I tremble, for my sins, shuddering and shaken.
For gone is my song, or any possible joy,
replaced by memories of Seville, now lost and forsaken.
Gone God’s congregations and students of the Law.
Rise then, Judah; for Israel, it is time to mourn.
Gone is sweetness from the people of God,
They are left with this bitterness coming nigh.
We will not hear the call of Elijah, God’s prophet;
for Heaven has restrained him and he is told, “Stand Fast!”
Two songs from the Catholic tradition were sung which originated from the Hebrew bible. One stanza
from the second song reflects its message, taken from Isaiah, Chapter 6 and I Samuel.

Here I am Lord, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin, My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, It is I Lord.
Rabbi Slomovitz spoke about the reality of a reconciliation process. “We cannot go back in time and
change the past. Nor can we eliminate the pain and suffering that people experienced.” The goal of the
evening was to jointly acknowledge the atrocities of the past and to develop strategies to ensure that
the future would be different. One of the principles that the Rabbi articulated was that people of faith
need to agree about certain standards of belief. One such shared value is found in the book of Leviticus
19:18, repeatedly referred to in Christian scripture, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge
against your countrymen. Love your neighbor as Yourself: I am the Lord.” It is a wonderful vision about
the future to imagine a society that accepted and practiced this significant social and religious ideal.
The concluding prayer was the Mourner’s Kaddish with the words projected on screens throughout the
Church. It certainly was a remarkable scene with Jews and Christians together, be they strangers or
friends, saying this memorial prayer on behalf of those who died in generations past due to prejudice
and hatred.
After the Kaddish, Rabbi Slomovitz and Father Lwin asked the congregation to hold hands and offer a
silent prayer for all the victims of anti-Semitism. Memorial candles had been lit on the altar and those
present reflected on the candles and what they represented.
The hope of Rabbi Slomovitz from the perspective of the Jewish Christian Discovery Center as well as the
priests from St. Ann’s was to have a religious program that could serve as a template for other such
services around the region. Having Jews and Christians together acknowledging the sins of the past and
working to ensure a better future is a necessary response to the prejudice and hatred infecting our
country and world.

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