The child of Holocaust survivors, Siddy Rosenberg grew up with a fear and hatred of Germans. It wasn't until later that she realized the importance of tolerance.
As she grew older and learned more about the world, "I learned that that (hatred) is not the way to peace," said Rosenberg, who lives off Ky. 22. "Now I hope that we all realize that we're all children of God, and we have to love one another."
Rosenberg was among a crowd of about 200 Jews, Muslims and Christians gathered last night at The Temple synagogue in Louisville for a service in which they prayed for peace in the Mideast on the eve of major holy days.
"I just think we had a tremendous feeling in the room of joy and love and respect," said Gaylia Rooks, a senior rabbi at The Temple. "If we could just bottle that sincerity and goodness, and spread it around the world."
Last night's gathering was held in part as the opening event for this weekend's conference of Jews and Palestinians who have been involved in dialogues on the Mideast conflict in Louisville and other cities.
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, begins at sunset Monday, while Muslims will begin fasting during the month of Ramadan on or about Tuesday, depending on the sighting of the new moon. World Communion Sunday, observed by many Christian denominations, will take place tomorrow.
"For Jews, we're right on the threshold of the new year, for Muslims we're coming very close to the holy month of Ramadan, so it's a particularly important time of year to be rededicating ourselves to the cause of peace," said Mark Isaacs, who is participating in the conference.
This weekend's conference, called the Midwest Palestinian-Jewish Dialogue Weekend, will involve about 50 people in Jeffersonville, Ind. They are Jews and Palestinians living in the United States who have been involved in dialogues in their own communities and are hoping to form a larger network.
People at last night's service received blue plastic bracelets bearing the word "peace" in Arabic, English and Hebrew. The service also included prayers for peace in those three languages.
Sarah Khayat, a 14-year-old who attends duPont Manual High School, read from a section of the Quran, which she said she picked because it emphasized "asking God to guide you."
"I think this (the event) provides dialogue for people from all different religions," Sarah said. "I really enjoyed what the rabbi had to say" in delivering a message of peace.
The conference will include members of Together for 2 States, a Louisville-based group, and members of similar groups from Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina and California.
"We're a very small group, and it would be foolish to be looking for very large changes because of us," said Paul Mareth from Asheville, N.C. "So I'm hoping for small changes that lead to big changes."
Anna Isaacs, 16, also called last night's event a "small step toward something bigger."
"Just as humans, we're starting to get to the place intellectually where we're more tolerant," said Anna, who is Mark Isaacs' daughter.
Elias Botto of San Mateo, Calif., is attending the conference with two of its organizers, Len and Libby Traubman, also of San Mateo. Botto is a Palestinian Christian who came to the United States 50 years ago, and he said he was impressed by how people of different faiths accepted each other last night.
"If it's anything about coexisting with each other, that's why I'm here," he said. "But I wonder what took us so long?"
The Traubmans chose Louisville for the conference after learning that Israeli and Palestinian youth music groups were brought here last year. Afterward, Len Traubman seemed happy with the choice.
"We have been in many different congregations, and the spirit in that room was remarkable," he said. "To me, that's how life will look not that far down the road."
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Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport led worshippers in prayer during the service.
"We're hoping and praying for a year of peace," Rooks Rapport said.
Francis Hoehn of Jeffersonville, Ind., took part in the service
last night at The Temple. Hoehn, a Cahtolic, participated in a
ceremony that was attended by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike.
Web site devoted to Second Midwest Palestinian-Jewish Dialogue Weekend