This week’s Torah Portion, Haye Sarah, opens with Abraham buying a burial cave from the Hittites, Ha’Mahpehlah in Hebron. The Torah details amazing negotiations that took place to complete this real estate transaction. In summary, it was a sale of a burial cave, sacred property, from one tribe to another, but, nevertheless, the sacredness of the property was maintained.
Over the past week or so, another real estate transaction of sacred space in our local area has become public knowledge: the sale of the former Temple Israel of Union building to the Islamic Center of Union County by my congregation, Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael of Springfield (Temple Israel merged with Temple Beth Ahm in January, 2008). As a result of this transaction, we are now able to fulfill our promises made to both congregations as conditions of the merger.
Sadly and unfortunately, from within the Jewish community, there have come vicious attacks against those involved in the merger for selling to what one such detractor labeled “Arabs, Jew-haters.” In my humble opinion, this is clearly an example of the sin of Dibbur Peh – the spewing of hateful words, and an example of horrific xenophobic behavior that should have no place in the Jewish community.
Over the long process of trying to sell the Temple Israel building, I often shared my opinion that I thought all of us would much prefer that the worship of God continue in the building rather it being torn down for a office building. We now know that such worship will continue. Once again, sacred space has been sold, yet remains to serve another tribe’s sacred needs. It is our hope to develop ties of friendship and cooperation with the ICUC, with whom we share a linkage as descendants of Abraham, and to work together to oppose xenophobia wherever it raises its ugly head.
Rabbi Mark Mallach
Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael