Three Northeast Ohio religious leaders, who come from different backgrounds and beliefs, recently shared stories, laughter and their love of beer. There wasn’t any judgment, hatred or self-righteousness — only love, respect and kindness.
Finding common ground was the topic of the “Craft Beer & Conversation: A Rabbi, a Priest and a Minister Walk into a Bar” at Market Garden Brewery. The panelists included Rabbi Scott Roland from Congregation Shaaray Tikvah in Beachwood, Father Chris Zerucha of St. Mary and St. Bernard in Akron and Pastor Ian Lynch from Old South United Church of Christ in Kirtland.
I intended to write an upbeat piece about my experience that night. But in light of the horrific tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which happened one week after the panel discussion in Cleveland, I will focus on how these three religious leaders find strength in coming together. Having more conversations like these is one way to find a path forward.
When talking about religious rights vs. civil rights, Rabbi Roland stands by the second commandment: “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” According to Jewish faith, as well as Catholicism and other Christian denominations, we are all created in the image of God. Our differences are divine, and it is our job to uncover these differences with love for one another.
“I cannot look at any person, regardless of their sexual orientation, the color of their skin, and say anything other than, ‘You are created in the image of God,’” says Rabbi Roland.
He continues, “I believe firmly that what makes each and every one of us different, proves divinity in the world.”
Rabbi Roland points out the multiple narratives in the Bible: various versions of creation and two different versions of the Ten Commandments. “God can handle that dissidence, and we should strive to handle it as well,” he says.
Along this same theme, Pastor Lynch believes our creator loves diversity — and diversity creates beauty. “Jesus doesn’t reject people, and neither do we,” Lynch shares, adding that we need to have civil conversations, and compromise is possible.
Pastor Lynch also brought up an example of the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, Nebraska, which includes Muslim, Jewish and Christian places of worship on one campus. This community realized they need to “live side-by-side and learn from one another,” he shares.
Father Zerucha sees that we all have a “unity with God,” and that it is the will of God that we all work together. The first step, the Catholic priest finds, is figuring out what we have in common.
When the discussion was over, Rabbi Roland admitted we have a lot to learn from each other and that he admires the deep faith he sees in other religions. He also mentioned the importance of “oneness in the world.”
A Rabbi, a priest and a minister walked into a bar to find common ground. Unfortunately, this love and kindness wasn’t shown to the 11 people killed at the Pittsburgh synagogue. “We will not try to rationalize irrational behavior,” says Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “We will work to eradicate it. We will work to eradicate it from our city, and our nation, and our world. Hatred will not have a place anywhere.”
We need to fight harder to embrace our commonalities, as we are all human beings, and we should love and support each other because of our differences, not despite them.