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December 18, 2009

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 18, 2009 Question: Sometimes for my job I have to attend events that include ecu- menical prayers. ~pically this means that someone gets up at the beginning or end and offers some kind of prayer in English. Sometimes these prayers include references to Jesus, which makes me very uncomfortable. Recently I have been asked to lead the prayer at such an event, and I don't know what's appropriate to say in this kind of setting. How should I figure out what to say? Marcia, Boston Answer: Ah, the old "ecu- menical prayer." Is it me, or do those prayers often comeoffas regular Christian prayers,just with less Jesus? Praying in an interfaith setting can be a tricky issue. I think most of the problems in these kinds of scenarios come from people who get up there and wing it, never thinking about how their words might strike someone fromaverydif- ferent religious background. So by thinking ahead of time about this, already you're ahead of the curve. First, a note about Jesus references: If it makes you un- comfortable, you can speak to the organizers aboutways they could make their events more respectful to non-Christians. Of course it's important to keep your remarks kind- spirited and constructive, but if the spirit of these events is really multi-faith, they should be happy to get feedback on how to make everyone feel more welcome. I spoke to Emily Soloff, associate director for inter- religious and intergroup relations for the American Jewish Committee, about the politics of praying with people whose faith background is different from your own. She introduced to me the concept of"being present in prayer but not praying." Essentially, you can be literally present and supportive in someone else's prayer, without participating. If someone's prayer is making you uncomfortable, you can always mentally separate your- self from what's going on in the room. Justbecause they're praying doesn't mean you must participate. You always have the option of simply sit- ting or standing respectfully. OK, on to some thoughts on how to lead prayer with non-Jews. First I would look at some of your favorite Jewish prayers. If you don't already have a siddur, spend some time at a Jewish bookstore and find one that seems right for you. Look at the translations of the prayers and consider how they might sound to non-Jews. A lot of prayers in the siddur focus on the concept of Jewish chosenness, which though a valuable idea is probably not a concept you want to dwell on in an interfaith setting. You may find a specific prayer thatyou'd like to use, but more likely you'll find themes and language thatyou like. Use this to inform the composition of your own prayer. A good place to start is al- Jewish & Zionist Program Kosher Kitchen Shomer Shabbat Caring staff members 2nd-lOth grade boys & girls COMING SOON TO ORLANDO. CALL FOR INFO! ways with a selection from the Book of Psalms. Look through the preliminary blessings and psalms (Birkhot Hashahar and Pesukei D'Zimrah) that are said as part of the morning service every day for some solid possibilities. From the maariv service I like the paragraph that begins with the word "hashkiveinu," "lie us down in peaceY That seems like a concept most people can get next to. There's also a nice para- graph in the Amidah that we say on Saturday nights follow- ing Shabbat: "Our Father, our King, may the coming days bring us peace. May they be free of sin and cleansed of wrongdoing; may they find us more closely attached to You. Grant us knowledge, discern- ment, and wisdom. Praised are You, Lord who graciously grants intelligence." Intelli- gence seems like a good thing to pray for, don't you think? What you write about spe- cifically will be influenced by the theme of the event itself, I imagine, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to integrate existing Jewish terminology into the prayer. If you'd like to use Hebrew words, go for it, just be sure to add a translation. If you want to end with a blessing, I recommend the evergreen "Baruch Ata Adonai, shomeah tefilah," "Bless you, O God, who hears our prayers." As far as I know there re- ally are no rules for interfaith prayers. It may feel strange to you because Judaism isn't big on spontaneous public prayer. Keepitsimple, drop a couple of the mostbasic language that For more information Hebrew words and say Amen brings us closer to a spiritual aboutJudaismandJewishlife, at the end. Sometimes it's connection, By Rabbi David Kay purposeofinterfaithdialogueis to one faith tradition, is used to challenge ourselves and our in a prayer in what's supposed Editor's note: The Heritage assumptions about others. To to be an interfaith setting. asked local rabbis to corn- thisend, IwilltypicallyuseHe- However, Iconsiderita"teach- ment on the accompanying brew phraseswhichare known able moment," and will often "Ask the Expert" story from Rabbinic metaphors for God makethepointofspeakingto (m'kor ha-hayyim--"source the person afterward, if pos- is a response from Rabbi of life"; honein ha-da'at--"the sible. Many times, the issue David Kay, assistant rabbi of onewhograces[humanbeings] can be circumvented through Congregation Ohev Shalom with intellect"; rofeih holim-- conversation in advance with and the interfaith liaison for "the one who heals the sick," the event organizer, particu- the Greater Orlando Board etc.), varying them depending larly if (as in the question from of Rabbis. on the context. Even when it's As the interfaith liaison for asked to offer an invocation an ongoing or regular activity. the Greater Orlando Board of before ameal, I have now made Some excellent interfaith dia- Rabbis and a member of the it a practice to not use shem iogue and understanding can executive of the Interfaith u'malkhut ("[divine] name arise simply from the process CouncilofCentralFiorida, rve andsovereignty"---i.e.,"Adonai of setting the guidelines for hadanumberofopportunities Eloheinu, melekhha-olam"-- such prayers (and in those to give invocations and offer "Adonai our God, sovereign of conversations after an overt prayers at interfaith events, the universe"), since "Adonai theological reference). I've found that many well- ourGod"doesnotapplyuniver- My teacher, Dr. Mary Boys, meaning clergy and laypeople sally to faith traditions outside visited Congregation Ohev atsuch events misunderstand of Judaism. (I'll therefore typi- Shalom as a scholar-in-res- the difference between "ecu- callyendnotwithHamotzi, but idence a few years ago, ad- menical"and"interfaith." The an editedversionofthe general dressing interfaith dialogue two words aren't really syn- blessing for foods made from ingeneralandCatholic-Jewish onymous, since"ecumenical" thefiveBiblicalgrains:Barukh relations in particular (Dr. technically refers to a body of atah--bor'ei minei m'zonot, Boys is also a nun). She made churches or the worldwide as- "We praise You--Creator of two points which I try to sociation of Christianity. sustenance of all kinds.") carry with me at all times, Ontheonehand, onedoesn't I will also make refer-and especially in interfaith wanttooffendorgoagainstthe ence to Biblical and Rabbinic settings: (1) make itahabitto spirit of interfaith cooperation teachings (in Hebrew and/or offer interpretations of sacred and respect. On the other Aramaic, with translation) text as if people of other faith hand, stripping a prayer of all which are appropriate to the traditions are in the room, elementsthatmakeituniqueto circumstances, often using and (2) focusing on common the faith traditionofthe person phrases like"The ancient Rab- ground can only go so far-- offering the prayer defeats the bis taught..." or "We learn in real interfaith understanding purpose of coming together in the book of Numbers..."comes from being able to talk the first place. Of course, little can be done about and accept our differ- Striking a balance can be at the moment when an overt ences in a respectful, loving, challenging, but the whole theological reference, specific and reverent manner. Professor Malka Cohen- Armon of Tel Aviv University "We've found a molecu- lar triggering mechanism in cancer cells that, when set off, causes the cancer cells to die--theyjuststop multiplying and die within 48 to 72 hours. Normal, healthy body cells are only temporarily arrested by the same mechanism--they overcome this cell cycle arrest within 12 hours and continue to proliferate in the presence of the drug as normal untreated cells," says Cohen-Armon. "All the human cancer cells we tested seemed to succumb to this compound." She adds that, even if this particular drug doesn't reach the market to fight against cancer, an entirely new class of drugs might be built around TEL AVIV--A never-ap- proved drug developed to prevent the death of nerve cells after a stroke can efficiently kill cancer cells while keeping normal cells healthy and intact, an international team led by a TeiAviv University researcher is reporting in the journal"Breast Cancer Research." Professor Malka Cohen-Ar- mon of TAU's Sackler School of Medicine found that the stroke drug--a member of a family of phenanthridine derivatives developed by an American drug company--worked to kill cancer in mice which had been implanted with human breast cancer cells. "Not only did the drug kill the cancer, but when we investigat- ed normal cells, we discovered that they'd reacted as though they hadn't come in contactwith the drug," says Cohen-Armon. "This is the result we were hop- ing for. If human trials go well, we could have an entirely new class of drugs in our hands for the fight against cancer." The immediate results of the study were only one of the promising findings in her research, she notes. The team also discovered a molecular mechanism in the cell cycle that can be arrested only in human cancer cells. This cell cycle arrest, they report, causes the cancer cells to die without affecting normal human cells. the mechanism the team has revealed. The stroke drugwas initially developed to prevent nerve cell death during inflammation and tissue damage in the brain after stroke. However, inpre-clinical studies, American researchers found that these compounds didn't work as well as they'd hoped. Today they are used only for research purposes in laboratory settings. "The compound we used," says Cohen-Armon,"presented no traces of toxicity in mice. With this compound, we were able to show how one of the many molecular mechanisms regulating the cell cycle can be targeted, and the proliferation of cancer cells halted." The team is currently working to identify all the regulatory mechanisms involved in this specific process and hope that, in better understanding the science, they might point the way to a new class of anti- cancer drugs. Her research team was joined by Asher Kastiel, a Ph.D. student from professor Shai Izraeli's team working at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center, and the veterinarian Dr. David Castel. All the experiments conform with the "Guide for the Care and Use of Labora- tory Animals" published by the "- National Institutes of Health in the United States.