By Rabbi Emily Ilana Losben-Ostrov
So, a rabbi and a priest walk into a diner. As soon as they see each other they hug and then sit down together. After staring at the menu for quite sometime, the priest orders a cheeseburger and the rabbi orders blintzes. Their food comes, they share a blessing and enjoy their wonderful meeting…
I know you’re waiting for the punchline- but that’s it. It’s not a joke- it’s a true story, (but if you think of a cute punchline, I’d love to hear it). A few weeks ago, my friend and Episicopal colleague Father David Sellery and I finally got together for a meal. We’d been planning to do this for a quite a while and finally found time between meetings and other appointments to get together. During our dinner we talked about work and family and how we juggle it all. We had a great time and then, Father Sellery had to run to a meeting.
I’m blessed to be part of the Bay Shore Clergy Association. Every year we come together for our annual Thanksgiving service and we try to meet once a month to simply gather and discuss. I am also blessed to have a great relationship with the other rabbi in town- a Conservative Rabbi – who also happens to be the only other woman who is part of our small clergy group. When Rabbi Leslie Schotz became the first female rabbi in Bay Shore, she in some ways, also blazed a trail for me to become the first Reform female Rabbi in Bay Shore a few years later. Our friendship seems natural because we are both female rabbis and definitely share similar experiences and have also shared some partnerships between our congregations.
What may be a little more out of the ordinary is the fantastic relationship we have with all the other clergy as well. For example, this past Martin Luther King, Jr Day our local African Methodist Episcopal Church Pastor, Reverend Allan R. Robinson, shared the bimah with me, bringing a wonderful delegation from his congregation. His sermon was inspired and inspiring and truly “lifted us all up.” This coming year, I will have the honor of speaking at his congregation for Martin Luther King, Jr Day.
Our meetings, annual Thanksgiving service, and friendships are truly a great symbol to the community of how we can “all get along,” even though we have different religious (and subsequent at times political) views. In this time when we’ve seen way too much hate, it’s a huge relief to know that I can count on my counterparts from other faiths for friendship and moral support (pardon the pun!).
So far one of my greatest moments of being associated with this group came at the end of a meeting in a very private setting- not for hundreds of our congregants to see as they do at our annual service. Our meeting was finished, some people had already left and as I was saying “goodbye,” Rabbi Schotz took some money from her wallet. She explained to the remaining two clergy members that since I was going to Israel she wanted to give me some “tzedakah” (charity) for the trip, thus ensuring my safe travels with such a holy mission. My other two colleagues were so impressed that they immediately reached into their wallets and also handed me tzedakah. One man was a pastor and the other was our local imam. So, when I went to Israel on that trip, I was able to say that I was supported by a Rabbi, a minister and an imam. I went to the Holy Land of three religions being supported by their representatives in Bay Shore. Our small group has shown me that even when we come together for something small- it can surely have a big impact!
Rabbi Losben-Ostrov is the rabbi at Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore, NY.