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Saying Psalms in a Mosque: A Jewish, Muslim, Christian Collaboration

In an era of increasingly incendiary divisions  —  creating bridges becomes even more important.

Marking the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Khojaly massacre, a group of Jews, Muslims and Christians gathered at a local mosque to offers prayers and words of consolation over a tragedy that occurred half-way around the world. We did so to show solidarity with the victims, survivors and the people of Azerbaijan and to demonstrate that religion can be a powerful force for compassion and healing.

The event, jointly sponsored by the King Fahad Mosque, Pico Shul Synagogue and Azerbaijan’s Consulate in Los Angeles, marks the second annual event in Los Angeles commemorating Khojaly. The first event was held last year at Pico Shul Synagogue. We were honored to have the participation of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leadership including Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez of the Centro Cristiano Bet-El, Father Eamon Kelly, L.C., Vice Chargé at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, Hypin Im, President and CEO of Korean Churches For Community Development; Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, President Emeritus of the Academy Of Jewish Religion; Steve Gilliland, Director of Interfaith Outreach for the Church Of Later Day Saints; Reverend Oliver E. Blue of Holman United Methodist Church; Rabbi Dov Cohen, Veterans and Prison Chaplain; and Imam Abdul Hafiz, Federal Muslim Chaplain of the Society to offer Prosperity & Peace. This remarkable collection of leaders and personalities is thanks to the dedication, friendship, and devotion to tolerance of Azerbaijan’s Consul General in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev and Mahomed Khan of the King Fahad Mosque.

Seated left to right: Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez of the Centro Cristiano Bet-El and Mahomed Khan.

Seated left to right: Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez of the Centro Cristiano Bet-El and Mahomed Khan.

Standing in the mosque and reciting Tehillim, Psalms, I looked out at a large crowd assembled in the sanctuary. The diverse group included dignitaries from elected officials, Consul Generals, Honorary Consuls, FBI and LAPD representatives, as well as members of various ethnic communities.  There were Jewish and Muslim children whose parents want them to see that they should not fear diversity, but respect other’s religions.

The facts of the Khojaly massacre are tragic. On February 26, 1992, Armenian armed forces attacked the town of Khojaly in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region. Witnesses and survivors have described in details the massacre, during which six-hundred unarmed civilians, including women and children were murdered. It was the largest massacre in the conflict. To this date, none of the perpetrators of this massacre of civilians have been tried, and even some hold positions of leadership in Armenia.

After hearing from a survivor of the event Ansar Usubov and watching a filmed interview with Durdane Aghayeva, another survivor, we stood together in silence and then prayer. I recited a Hebrew prayer in memory of the victims standing together with a Bishop, Imam, and a Catholic Priest.

After the event, we sat down together for a meal in the mosque’s social hall. One table with a Halal dinner and another table with Kosher catering. We dined and discussed the event and strengthened our resolve to speak out against intolerance and hate, and work towards forging ties of peace and harmony.

While we can never bring back those who were gone, hopefully this event will help prevent future tragedies and bring healing to Azerbaijanis and the world.

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A Kabbalist’s Feast: Tu B’Shevat Seder at Pico Shul

tubishvat 034.1Tu B’shvat is Coming! Celebrate Nature’s Holy Gifts and Wisdom at our Kabbalists’ Feast. Last year this event sold out!

Year’s ago in the ancient city of Tzfat a group of Kabbalists uncovered the mystical secret’s of Tu B’shvat. They revealed these mystical secrets in a ceremony patterned after the Passover Seder and made a festival meal on the night of Tu B’shvat, the 15th of the month of Shvat. There are four cups of wine, a recited text, and ritual foods eaten. However in place of the story of the Exodus from Egypt the Tu B’Shvat seder uncovers the inner dimensions of reality as revealed in nature. In place of Matzah and chicken soup with Matzah balls, there are a dozen kinds of fruit to enjoy and to fuel spirited conversation.

Join Rabbi Yonah for a memorable and delicious excursion into the mystical realm of Tu B’Shevat with this unique Seder he has written for the event based on the ancient Seder recited by the kabbalists in Tzfat centuries ago.

The Tu B’Shevat Seder will take place Tuesday, February 3rd, at 8pm at Pico Shul. Reservations are recommended as space is limit. RSVP for $15 before January 26th. Tickets go up to $20 on January 26th.

Tickets will be online soon!

FAQ:
There will wine served at event, have a designated driver, or us Uber

There is a lot of food being served.

This is a sit down event.

You may be able to pay at door if we still have space.

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Join me for a Shabbat Camping Spiritual Adventure

Shabbat Tent and Pico Shul are organizing the second annual Mountain High Shabbat Spiritual Adventure for young adults in their 20s and 30s, August 22-24, in the Angeles National Forest Jackson Flats Campground.

This awesome summer camping weekend will take place from August 22-24 at Jackson Flats Campground 7,500′ high in the Angeles National Forest. Grab your backpack and camping gear, and we’ll provide the food, l’chaims, and spirituality. Space is very limited, so we need everyone to apply. Fill out this application if you are interested in this adventurous spiritual retreat. We will do our best to include all who apply, but unfortunately we cannot promise a spot to everyone this time around.

I will be leading the teaching and Shabbat programs.

Upon acceptance to the program you will have 48 hours to submit your registration fee or potentially loose your spot. Registration prior to Aug. 11th costs $75, and afterwards cost $99. Price includes camping and kosher meals from Friday dinner through Sunday brunch.

Register at www.MountainHighShabbat.com

Thank you to our generous sponsors:
Allen and Deanna Alevy and Family
Barak Raviv Foundation
French-Friedman Foundation

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What Happened at LA Rally in Support of Israel?

Yesterday’s large rally in support of Israel at the Federal Building has been tainted by the violence that erupted while rally was ending. I recited prayers and psalms at the start of the rally, and the crowd was peaceful, positive, and non-confrontational with the counter protestors who I estimate numbered no more than 50-75.

Conflicting accounts on several news stations about how many arrested, who arrested, how many people at rally. CBS claims 2000+, LA Jewish Journal 1200, and LA Times at 500.

Since the accounts are so different I am now hesitant to say what exactly happened. An off-duty sheriff’s officer said four men with Palestinian flags attacked Jews with sticks. LA Times is reporting that Palestinians supporters were retrieving a flag taken and vandalized by pro-Israel supporters when the fight broke out.

The most remarkable part of the story is that a gunshot was fired by an officer with Federal Protective Services. The Federal Protective Service (FPS) is a federal law enforcement agency that provides integrated security and law enforcement services to federally owned and leased buildings, facilities, properties and other assets. Some say he shot in the air, but nothing is clear.

We will have to wait until we know more about what happened. What is certain is that people were arrested, although even that number is debated by news sources. Most reports are that four men were detained on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.

(Photo Jewish Journal)