In wake of hate crime, rabbi and Baha’i create strong bond
A letter of condolence from the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of San Francisco to a Jewish congregation, in the wake of a mass shooting at a Pennsylvania synagogue, has led to a blossoming relationship with a rabbi and the prospects of opening a space for dialogue between the two faith communities.
Letters from the Spiritual Assembly, the local Baha’i governing council, went out to several Jewish congregations following the horrific crime on Oct. 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“Our community offers its heartfelt prayers that the families and friends will be solaced, that the injured will be healed, and that the souls of the departed will be embraced by our loving Creator. May the souls of those so senselessly slain find peace and their good works live on in the hearts of their friends, families, and community,” the letters read in part.
In response, “the Assembly was invited to send representatives to a memorial service held to remember the individuals who were slain or injured,” recalls Charleen Maghzi-Ader, Assembly secretary.
“The Assembly representatives were asked to read its letter at the gathering, as well as the 23rd Psalm and a letter of condolence sent from the San Francisco Interfaith Council.”
As Maghzi-Ader got to know Rabbi Pam Frydman of Congregation B’nai Emunah before and after the memorial service, “a loving bond of friendship” developed. The Jewish leader invited her to accompany a small group to Israel in March 2019.
Maghzi-Ader had to decline the invitation but agreed to help Frydman learn more about the teachings and Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith. The two also scheduled a get-together “to share how our respective communities became established in San Francisco.”
At that meeting, the rabbi was given copies of several requested documents. And when Maghzi-Ader was packing up items for the local Baha’i Center’s move to a new location, she assembled “a little library” for Frydman’s “personal study and reference.”
Maghzi-Ader delivered those items to Frydman on Feb. 6 and the rabbi “spontaneously expressed the hope to receive an invitation for herself and her congregation” to celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Birth of the Bab, Herald of the Baha’i Faith, in October 2019. She was told it would be celebrated on consecutive days with the anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, Founder of the Baha’i Faith.
To avoid scheduling something else on those dates, the rabbi marked them in her personal and congregation calendars, Maghzi-Ader says.
“Ever since our participation in the memorial service, she has expressed her openness to creating a space for dialogue among members of her congregation and the Baha’is in San Francisco.
“We both look forward to continuing our understanding of each other’s faiths and learning how our communities might find opportunities for future fellowship and mutual appreciative learning.”