Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tree of Life Social Justice Committee Supports Local Jewish and Islamic Institutions

A wave of Events like this Jewish cemetery desecration motivated the Tree of Life UU Congregation Social Justice Committee to reach out to local synagogues and an Islamic center.  After a devastating attack on a suburban St. Louis cemetery local Muslims were among the first on the scene to help righting the headstones and collectedly money for repairs.

In response to a wave of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic attacks on Jewish and Muslim institutions around the country and in the greater Chicago area, the Social Justice Committee of the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry has reached out to local synagogues and a mosque offering sympathy, solidarity, and support.
In a letter addressed to Rabbi Tom Samuels of the McHenry County Jewish Congregation, Rabbi Craig Wyckoff of Congregation Tikkum Olam, and to the Islamic Center of McHenry County in Crystal Lake the Committee wrote:
On behalf of the Tree of Life Social Justice Committee, we wish to extend our deep concern and support to your members.
We condemn the continued attacks and threats to religious community centers, cemeteries, schools, mosques and synagogues that have escalated since the election of Donald Trump. We condemn the xenophobic rhetoric used on social media.
We are willing to lend personal support should your group find itself in need.
The letter was signed by Committee co-chairs Judy Stettner and Janet Burns, Barbara Sedgwick who initiated the contact and drafted the statement, and by members including Sue Rekenthaler, Andrea Myers, and Patrick Murfin.

When this Mosque in Victoria Texas was torched recently the members of a tiny local Jewish congregation gave the keys to their building to the Imam and invited worshipers to share their space.

It was prompted by the wave of attacks and general atmosphere of intimidation that has been unleashed across the country including bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers, cemetery desecration, vandalism to synagogues, arson attacks on mosques and assaults on individuals believed to be Muslim.  In Chicago a North Side Jewish Community Center received bomb threats and the Loop Synagogue was vandalized.  Mosques and Islamic groups and institutions are barraged with threats and harassment.
The letter reflects the commitment of the Unitarian Universalist Association nationally to religious liberty and respect for the diversity of religious practice.  Tree of Life has had a long tradition of close interfaith relations.  In fact both of the Jewish congregations held services in their formative years in the Congregation’s former Woodstock home, then known as the Congregational Unitarian Church.  Muslim leaders have been invited to speak at from the pulpit.  Children from the Congregation’s Religious Education Program have visited synagogues and mosques.
The former Diversity Day Festival held annually on the Square in Woodstock for 14 years which was organized by the Congregation, invited participates of both faiths to speak and promoted respect for Islam during the harsh backlash in the post-9/11 era and during the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

These window reflecting the spiritual sources from which Unitarian Universalists draw inspiration including Judaism and Islam were installed in Tree of Life's former Woodstock church home.  Much beloved, they await reinstallation in McHenry..

Unitarian Universalists cite both Judaism and Islam, along with other world faith traditions, as spiritual sources from which they draw inspiration.  Windows celebrating both faiths were installed in the Woodstock church and will be re-installed in McHenry.
“We are called to act now as Unitarian Universalists,” said Co-chair Stettner, “But we are also called because it is the human and moral thing to do.”
For more information call the church at 815 322-2464, e-mail office@treefolifeuu.org or visit http://treeoflifeuu.org/ .

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