One of Rabbi Joshua Lief’s hopes for Monday’s dialogue with Ron Scott Jr. on the state of Black/Jewish relations in the community and in the nation is an ambitious one, he admits.

“I hope people will realize that you can be open and honest and engage in real conversations with people who are different from yourself.”

Rabbi Lief

Ron Scott Jr.

Temple Shalom’s Rabbi Lief and Scott, director for Cultural Diversity and Community Outreach at the YWCA, will join together for conversation at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, at Temple Shalom. The public is invited to attend.

“Our society has become bitterly divided on multiple fronts: politics, economics, religion, race — you name it. It can feel risky to leave the safety of the familiar echo chamber of social media, but our Jewish values of living in community with others, especially those who are different, suggest that the rewards far outweigh the risks,” Lief said.

Monday’s event arose from the monthly Lifelong Learning programming held at Temple Shalom, and a prior conversation between Scott and Lief.

“Each month we have a program on a different subject: history, Bible, holidays, philosophy, even cooking; a single session to which all are welcome and no prior knowledge is required. When planning for January, in honor of Dr. King’s birthday, we were going to have a look at the history of our Jewish commitment to the Civil Rights movement,” Lief said.

“In light of recent violence against Jews in New Jersey and New York, we planned to examine where we were, where we are and what the future might hold. In planning the program, I thought it would be even more interesting to make it a dialogue with my friend Ron Scott from the YWCA: one Jewish person and one Black person, looking at our relationship, the relationship of our communities, and having an open and honest conversation about the realities we face and our hopes for the future.”

“I think this event is important to our community because it will show people that our growing cultural diversity does not and should not breed unfamiliarity, division and separation amongst our community,” Scott said.

Lief agrees: “I hope, as a Wheeling community, we’ll discover we have far more in common than that which separates us.”

Lief also hopes that the program inspires the community to join Scott and him in the city’s upcoming Martin Luther King Celebration.

“I believe that any opportunity to meet our neighbors, to share a bite to eat, and to have open and honest conversations, even about difficult topics, helps us to grow not only as individuals, but also as a city,” Lief said.

Temple Shalom is located at 23 Bethany Pike, Wheeling. Doors will be open by 6:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served, and all are welcome.

• Having spent nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigal now serves as Weelunk’s managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.

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