Bringing Shalom to St. Louis

Dave Gustafson (STLRN President)

Shalom. Perhaps the most beautiful word in a beautiful language that was nearly lost to us, Hebrew. It is normally translated as “peace,” but it means much more that. It conveys not only the absence of conflict but a sense of complete wholeness and community, the very state of being that has become so elusive for those of us in St. Louis.

Here at the St. Louis Reconciliation Network (STLRN), we’ve been working for five years on our mission to “heal the broken race relations of the St. Louis region by harnessing the potential collective power of its diverse faith communities.” The next event on our calendar is the second annual “Race for Reconciliation“ to be held in Tower Grove Park on Saturday, September 30.

But this brings me to both an apology and an invitation. On the lunar calendar of our Jewish brothers and sisters, which pre-dates the solar Gregorian calendar by a few millennia, this year’s 30th of September is also the 10th of Tishrei, the holiest of the High Holy Days, Yom Kippur. And not just any Yom Kippur, but one that falls on Shabbat, to make the culturally-insensitive scheduling even a bit more offensive.

So, we sincerely apologize to all of our Jewish neighbors. From a theological perspective, you are our elder brothers and sisters. Those of us who are Christians worship one of your brothers as the promised Messiah, the one who – we believe just like Joseph before him – chose to hide his true identity from his brothers during that first encounter of nearly 2000 years ago.

We at STLRN invite everyone in our community, whether they observe a faith tradition or not, to join our mission to bring Shalom to St. Louis. But this is a special invitation to those who (like me) will be fasting on Yom Kippur to join us at Tower Grove Park that morning, before you head off to services. This region cannot become whole and truly healed without you.

In his comments at Tuesday’s special Interfaith service at Kiener Plaza, Rabbi James Bennett (Congregation Shaare Emeth) quoted the prophet Michah (6:8) and prayed: “It says justice you shall pursue; it does not say you should wait for it. Jews are about to enter the high holy days, a time of reflection, accountability and repentance. For the sin we have committed, the injustice we support, for our inaction, grant us atonement.”

To that, we say: “AMEN!” And to everyone in our community, please join us in this mission to finally bring meaningful change and true healing to our region – the Shalom we all need.