Saturday, January 17, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

Last night, I went to the Adath Israel Temple to be present as the Jews observed the beginning of the Shabbat. At the time, the Episcopal church happened to be hosting an interfaith weekend for the sake of education, so the congregation was half Christian, and half Jewish. It was a lovely prayer service, and I got to brush up on my Hebrew (Honestly, the actual Hebrew was easier to read than the transliterations provided, since there were so many hyphens in it). Rabbi Danziger gave his sermon on the absolute truth of peace and how that relates to the violent situations around the world. Following the service was a potluck dinner, where many Episcopals had brought dishes as well as the Jews. During the dinner, I noticed that one of the dishes was green beans with bacon for flavor. As I ate it, it dawned on me that it was the first time I had eaten pork in a Jewish temple. But the fact that nothing came from that is a testament to the ecumenical nature of the community. Almost everyone is genuinely friendly here, regardless of faith.

שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם

Member hunt!

The hunt for all the members of the Delta State chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia has been very successful so far.  At this point, I have managed to find about 240 of the guys, complete with photos of themselves and their big brothers.  As I find each one, I put him on the web site at under “Alumni Brothers.”

Learning about the various people in the chapter and the stories surrounding them never fails to be interesting to me.  While at the University Archives perusing the yearbooks between 1960 and the present again, I found two more chapter yearbook group photos that I had missed in my first perusal.  These were the 1982 photo and the 1974 photo.

The 1974 photo here shows a couple of familiar faces, but most interesting to me is the diversity of the whole group.  There are four African-Americans, one hippie, a few modern-looking white people, and a few 60’s-looking white people.  All these people were initiated into a fraternity chapter on a campus in Mississippi in 1974.  I’d say that this photograph is a good piece of evidence for the historical progressiveness of the chapter, as well as for the universal truth that the power of music transcends personal differences.  There are people in that picture who were members of the chapter during the civil rights movement itself.  This is particularly interesting in light of the recent article in the campus newspaper.  The article was about one of the “major white” fraternities pledging an African American man in the fall of 2008, and how this was somehow a new situation, to “sprinkle some chocolate into a sea of vanilla,” as the article stated.  The author of the article seemed to miss the fact that at the time of the article’s publishing, the Theta Upsilon chapter had five African Americans in its collegiate membership, and well over 30 in its entire membership.  In that article, that was only one level of inaccuracy.  Another level was the regarding a person of another skin color as different from the rest of the IFC fraternity men at all, which not only oversimplifies the difference between the people groups, but noticeably discriminates between them.  Diversity of minds is a virtue, I believe, but is it wholly necessary to write an article about one black man who pledged a fraternity that is not known for having black members, particularly even before his initiation into full membership?  In any case, the entire issue of celebrating diversity without discriminating is a very difficult issue to tackle.