FAITH COMES BACK TO 'GODLESS COMMUNISM'
Religion has returned to Albania, this report says. Well, my guess is that it never left the hearts and souls of some residents. One of the most difficult operations to perform is a religionectomy.
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VISITING ANOTHER RELIGIOUS TRADITION
NEW YORK -- While I was here this week working on my Holocaust book project, my book-writing colleague, Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, also was here, though his first duty was to help lead a group of youngsters from his temple's confirmation class on a trip.
I joined them the day they went to Brooklyn to visit the world center of Chabad Lubavitch Judaism, the Hassidic approach to the Jewish tradition.
We visited the famous building at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn that was the office (pictured here) of the movement's late and most famous leader, Rebbe (it's similar to rabbi, but means leader) Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Indeed, we had the rare privilege of being allowed to see his office, which remains much as it did when he died in 1994.
A few of his followers revere Schneerson so much that they believe he was and is the Jewish Messiah and lives forever. No successor Lubavitcher rebbe has been named and it seems unlikely that any ever will be. Schneerson was the seventh in a line that stretches back to the 1700s.
Rabbi Cukierkorn and I visited Schneerson's grave and, as you can see, found followers praying there. The white papers you see lying there (in this photo) are prayer requests left by believers.
We also had a chance to visit the Chabad Library, which houses some 250,000 volumes, many of them rare books dating from the 1470s and later. It's essentially a research establishment.
And we visited a business that repairs Torah scrolls and writes new ones. (The photo here shows a Torah currently being worked on.) The latter, by the way, cost anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000. It's an astonishingly painstaking process that requires no errors. And many checks are done to make sure it's error free.
All of which is to say that it's simply fascinating to come to the home of other religious traditions and to learn about them. It removes misunderstandings and, one hopes, reduces prejudices.
I've seen some of what I would call the anti-Semitic variety of prejudice in some recent comments left on this blog. I've not removed those comments because I think it's important that others, including me, challenge them openly without censorship, though I always reserve the right to expunge comments that I consider out of bounds (that's happened only once or twice in more than two years).
We enter into conversation with other faiths to know and to be known, not to denigrate or convert. If conversion happens as a long-term result of those conversations, fine, but that's not the goal.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.