Rabbi Lewis helps boost solidarity in Palo Alto

When Rabbi Sheldon Lewis was asked to participate in a Muslim solidarity press conference hours before the start of the High Holy Days, he said yes without hesitation.

“It didn’t cross my mind [to say no],” said Lewis, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto. “[The event] actually helped in my preparation for Rosh Hashanah.” 

Lewis was one of about 15 Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders who gathered at First Baptist Church in Palo Alto on Sept. 8 to speak out against anti-Muslim bigotry and condemn Florida pastor Terry Jones’ planned “International Burn a Koran Day.”

The conference was organized by the Santa Clara Council of Churches and the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice, and was endorsed by many interfaith and inter-community groups.

Lewis noted that Jews “know how much it hurts” when radicals burn one’s sacred text, which happened often during the Nazi era. As Jews, he added, “we have a responsibility to speak out.”

The leaders also voiced concern over opposition to building a mosque two blocks from ground zero and highlighted Quran passages that mention Moses and Jesus in a positive way.

About 50 people attended, said Lewis, the only rabbi present. The Peninsula region’s Jewish Community Relations Council also was represented.

— amanda pazornik