Building Interfaith ConnectionsTwice each year, the students at Crespi
Carmelite High School in Encino, a Catholic boys' high school, gather in the gym for an interfaith religious service joining Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish clergy together to celebrate the common roots of our shared humanity. In November, at Crespi's invitation, Eisenberg Village Campus Rabbi Ron Goldberg was on hand for one such service as a co-officiant, sharing his wisdom and tradition and representing the Los Angeles Jewish Home.
Rabbi Ron co-led the service (which was attended by approximately 500 young men from the Catholic boys' school) with Crespi's Brother Roberto Reyes and Iman Suhail Mulla of the West Valley Islamic Center. Each member of the clergy presented a meditation on the topic of "gratitude," followed by a morning blessing for the student body from their respective faith traditions.
"Crespi holds these services around the winter holidays and then again in the spring to coincide with Easter and Passover," Rabbi Ron says. "This was my third time being invited, and it's something I very much look forward to."
During his presentation, Rabbi Ron offered the students a lesson on understanding the difference between gratitude and thankfulness. "As a practical demonstration, I asked if someone would hand me a pen; once he did, I thanked him," Rabbi Ron said. "As I told the students, that's being thankful; it's transactional. Whereas gratitude is how we live our lives—knowing we value the efforts of others for making our lives better, and that we have the same responsibility toward them."
The Jewish Home-Crespi relationship began a number of years ago, when the high school started sending students to the Home for Sophomore Service Week, an opportunity for Crespi 10th graders to give back by volunteering. During non-COVID times, the students would come to campus to visit with residents of the Goldenberg-Ziman Special Care Center and other Jewish Home facilities.
"We always tried to make it a memorable time for the students and for our residents," Rabbi Ron says. "The last time they were here, pre-COVID, we had a panel discussion with our Holocaust Survivors Group. It was an interactive event, and we made it available on YouTube. One of the things we did was show a famous photo of the Anschluss—Hitler taking over Austria. In it, Hitler is going down a main boulevard in Vienna, in an open-air convertible, surrounded by crowds. I told the Crespi students, ‘Two of the people you're going to meet at the Jewish Home today were actually in that crowd and saw Hitler in person.' The look of utter amazement on their faces was profound."
Rabbi Ron says the Crespi students are always a welcome presence on the Jewish Home campus. "I love having them here because they bring a lot of interesting questions and ideas, and it allows me to bring my faith tradition to a group of people who otherwise wouldn't encounter it," he says. "It's also a joy for our residents, who benefit from the students' youthful energy and kind attention. I look forward to continuing to evolve this wonderful partnership!"
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