The Episcopal School in North Philadelphia

Over the past semester, the 5th graders have become more conversant with the religions of the world. Last week they had the opportunity to literally converse with a Jewish rabbi, Gary Charlestein.

Religion in the abstract became flesh and blood for a student when he asked, “Are you Jewish,”and Rabbi Charlestein smiled and replied, “I am indeed!”

In show & tell fashion, Rabbi Charlestein made Judaism and its wisdom tangible for our children, from blowing a shofar (made from a ram’s horn) as a wake-up call to wrapping each of the students in his prayer shawl as a symbol of God’s surrounding presence.

Midway through the lesson, he taught the students the Hebrew word shalom–which means peace. On a deeper level, Rabbi Charlestein taught the students shalom simply by interacting positively with our students and giving them an opportunity to learn from a person of a different faith tradition. In our multi-religious world (and school) Jesus’s call to be peacemakers must include learning to honor our neighbor’s faith. The students left the classroom with shalom bursting from their lips, and (we hope) settling deep within their hearts.

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