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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Ashes to grace in Pa.

When someone set fire to a Harrisburg, Pa., synagogue on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Camp Hill, Pa., offered its sanctuary for Yom Kippur services.

"The real lesson of the day was the way in which one community reached out to the other," said Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Trinity's help. The fire caused more than $1 million in damage at Temple Ohev Sholom.

On Yom Kippur, with the services only hours away, Weiner asked his friend, Stewart Hardy, pastor of Trinity, for help. Hardy and his staff removed symbols from their sanctuary that might inhibit Jewish worship.

Then there was the problem of the ark. The Torah is kept in the ark, a receptacle in the synagogue wall, and removal of the scroll to be read is an important part of the service. Hardy said his staff found a wooden cupboard in the church. "They got busy with some Lemon Pledge and lined it with white cloth to hold the Torah," Weiner said.

Hardy was one of several speakers when, a week later, members of Ohev Sholom moved back into their sanctuary. More than 150 residents encircled the synagogue with lit candles as members entered for the Jewish Harvest Festival. "What greater blessing could there be than to see God take the black night filled with evil and turn it into the light of grace and peace and joy," Hardy told the crowd. "May all people see in us and our care for one another God's great love."


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