Few months ago when we of the Jewish faith celebrated our religious New Year, the Washington Council of Churches expressed through its president, my highly esteemed colleague, the Reverend Dale D. Gorman, their good wishes to the Jewish community joining us in prayer to God, that the coming months may be good to us all. It has been a pleasant custom of our community for a number of years now that, through the generosity of this newspaper, Christian and Jewish citizens exchange greetings at the time when the holiest festivals of their religions are observed. Frequently it has been said in this column that we Jews wished our Christian friends and neighbors would he permeated with the rich and meaningful nuances of our Jewish holidays as we Jews would do good to become infused by the spirit which animates Christmas during their holy season. For in the mutual respect therein toward our religions, therein lies the truest philosophy of universal brotherhood.
Both of us, Christians and Jews alike, understand, of course, the values of life which are precious to each; both of us understand the profound differences which exist in religious observances; both of us find ourselves, at the same time, at one in united neighborliness as we face our common life and serve the same God whom we adore.
As I see it, this season of the year is not only the opportunity for the exchange of gifts, nor is it merely the occasion of sending very beautiful greeting cards to one another. Traditionally, I am a strong believer in the value of symbols and I am firm in my conviction that symbols must be meaningful, must be challenging, must contain a message to inspire if they shall have any value or significance at all. So, please, permit me, as the spokesman for Beth Israel Congregation of Washington, to offer you our sincere and warm greetings and best wishes that can come from Jewish hearts on the eve of your Christmas holiday, and may they serve as the shining symbol of our and good for Peace on earth and to all mankind.
As I believe to understand it, the Christmas observance spells loyalty of ideals, self dedication to the deepest and most profound truths of life. It speaks of God, the loving Father of all; it speaks of His will to see all of His children leading such life on earth that should be in His ways; it is a summons to an ever greater measure of loyalty not only to the materials of living – but to the intangibles of life; not just to things – but to truth; not only to daydreams – but to ideals; not only farfetched illusions – but to spiritual realities.
Just a few days ago we Jews completed our celebration of Chanukah, our weeklong Festival of Lights and rededication. Isn’t this interesting that in our festival the identical emphasis exists? In their spirit both, Chanukah and Christmas, do urge all of us to an ever more vital loyalty to these values which are of the spirit and of the faith. This season of the year, both in Church and in the Synagogue, may therefore be looked upon as a time of testing the respective genuineness of both, Jews and Christians. It tests whether we are seasonal worshippers or true believers; it tests whether we are fair-weather religionists or true followers of the heritages inherited from our ancestors. We are moved to search our hearts and souls, we are stimulated to examine our deeds in the hope that we might be prepared to answer affirmatively the question whether we are ready to live for what we believe to struggle for that which is sacred to us. As as I look toward the mountains of still unfilled work and see only little hillocks of what I have been able to accomplish, it seems to me that this season of the year calls for an ardent and affirmative devotion and re-consecration to our accepted spiritual values. It calls for strongly demonstrated loyalty to God, the Universal Father. It calls for demonstrated loyalty to the dignity of every human being regardless of race, color and creed. It calls for a demonstrated loyalty to the ideal of human brotherhood, a dream that can be fulfilled when we demonstrate the ideal of universal peace. Of course, all this is hard to be reached; but the good is harder and worth more. To get more, we must do more. To achieve the good, we must do far more than concentrate only on a fraction of it.
In this spirit, I deeply rejoice to bring to you and to all within the reach of this news media, the greetings of your fellow citizens of the Jewish faith on this Christmas. With you we pray that God may bless the world with a reign of justice, of brotherhood and of peace. We wish for all of you that you may have a Merry Christmas, as we wish for all mankind a Happy New Year.
Beth Israel Congregation