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Just a footnote to your beautiful cover story in the fall 2009 issue, “A Moment in Time.”
After offering my help immediately after the crash of Flight 3407 on Feb. 12, 2009, and discovering that all bases were covered by others, I volunteered to teach the “Building Bridges” class for the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo. Susan A. Wehle, BA ’02 & BA ’74, cantor at Temple Beth Am and one of the 50 individuals who tragically perished in the crash, had conceived the course and was to lead it at the High School of Jewish Studies. After Susan’s death, her class became my second vocation, as I tried to recreate her vision (she did not leave a class outline or notes). I also wanted to keep her legacy of interfaith efforts alive.
Ever since, I’ve been working with Othman Shibly, MS ’95, assistant professor in the UB School of Dental Medicine and a Muslim faith community leader, to bridge the gaps of understanding and fellowship among Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities. Dr. Shibly brought his students from the An–Noor Mosque in Getzville to learn and communicate with the Jewish high school students for several sessions of the Building Bridges class, for instance.
As a result of this class, Dr. Shibly and I were invited to be interfaith guests at the annual Islamic Society of North America convention in Washington, D.C., over the Fourth of July weekend. We then volunteered to coordinate our own “twinning weekend,” which was patterned on an initiative begun in 2008 by Rabbi Marc Schneier, president and founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding in New York City.
In October, I traveled with Dr. Shibly to Damascus, Syria, to speak on geriatric health issues as an invited guest at the Syria Dental Association’s annual meeting, and I did several house calls for elder relatives of meeting attendees. In November, the Metro Buffalo, N.Y., Mosque-Synagogue Twinning Weekend took place. Four local Jewish and three Muslim congregations shared religious services and spiritual study, discussed joint projects to help the community, and offered a health fair manned by Muslim and Jewish physicians and dentists.
I’m sure that Susan would be happy that someone is trying to keep her vision alive.
Robert S. Stall,
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