It shouldn t have needed a massacre in a Quebec Islamic cultural centre in January to rouse Canadians to show that they care for the safety of their Muslim neighbours. Mercifully, the initiative of Yael Splansky, the senior rabbi of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, did that by getting people of all faiths to form rings of peace around mosques.
It shouldn t have needed the desecration of gravestones in Jewish cemeteries in American cities last month to move people to show solidarity with their Jewish neighbours. Mercifully, the impressive voluntary efforts by Muslims to restore the broken graves and their offers to guard Jewish burial places did that.
One of the explanations why Jewish-Muslim co-operation and mutual affirmation are so difficult in our time is because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the way, however futile it may be for Jews and Muslims in North America to fight the battles of the Middle East.
Muslims and Jews here would do much better had they been acting according to the yes, but formula suggested by Peter Berger, arguably the most influential sociologist of religion in our time.
In an essay in The American Interest he writes that it s possible to be religiously committed and yet have reservations, e.g., I am Catholic, but In our context it should be possible to say, I m committed to Muslim-Jewish co-operation but I disagree with, or even deplore, the others attitude to and treatment of my co-religionists in the Holy Land.
As much as I d like all Muslims to publicly affirm that Israel is a Jewish state, I don t need such declarations in order to co-operate with Muslim neighbours in Toronto or even in Jerusalem. After all, Christians and Jews have learnt to work purposefully together for the good of the society in which they live despite very different views about, for example, Jesus.
Yet disagreement on this and other issues that adherents consider to be fundamental doesn t prevent them from working together in celebration of what they do agree on, and in the service of the society in which they live. They know that the perfect is the enemy of the good.
That s why Jewish-Muslim dialogue needs Christians to show how, despite countless centuries of prejudice and persecution, it has become possible to co-operate and help protect each other. Christians are needed as catalysts in the Muslim-Jewish dialogue.
The apparent absence of statements on behalf of faith communities in Canada in support of the motion M-103, which calls on the government to fight racism and religious discrimination, may have contributed to the opposition to it.
The sponsor of the motion, Liberal backbencher Iqra Khalid, is said to have received ominous threats from fanatical opponents and apparently now has special security protection. Some politicians also appear to be using Khalid s effort as an excuse to rouse reactionary elements in society in the guise of legitimate opposition.
It s possible the Islamophobia that figures prominently in the motion is too ambiguous and controversial a term. Anti-Muslim bigotry, as suggested by former Attorney General Irwin Cotler, might have been better.
Perhaps other language could have been used to clarify the intention of the motion. However, all parties could nevertheless support it by following Peter Berger s yes, but principle: Yes, I disagree with certain words, but I fully support this effort to curb anti-Muslim bigotry.
More vigorous responsible religious voices might have injected much needed sanity into the debate. Surely, every effort to prevent attacks of the kind we ve seen in Quebec, in American cemeteries and elsewhere is a religious imperative. M-103 can become yet another wholesome tool in the struggle.
Dow Marmur is rabbi emeritus of Toronto s Holy Blossom Temple. His column appears every four weeks.
George and Betty Kleban. (Photo: Patty Kleban)
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Change. The only thing in life that is inevitable.
This week my family is preparing for some change. My father-in-law, Dr. George Kleban, is closing his dental practice after 53 years. If anyone deserves a chance to step away from work and start enjoying the fruits of retirement, it is Doc, as he called by so many. He will turn 80 in July.
I first met Grandpa back in 1977 when his oldest son also named George asked me to the junior prom. I didn t know young George then but knew his older sister, coincidentally also named Patty. That first date evolved into 30 years of marriage and in-laws who have made me a part of their family.
I don t think I officially became his dental patient until mid-way through college. It was after one of my sorority sisters broke one of her front teeth on a beer bottle and was afraid to call her mother. We called young George who called his dad. With one appointment and some tooth-colored stuff that he put on it and then cured with a light, her teeth were back to normal. When my roommate eventually told her mother, she said Four years of high school sports and you break your teeth on a beer bottle? We all still laugh about it. Dr. Kleban to the rescue.
That story and my friend are just one of the thousands that Grandpa has treated and helped over the years.
George and Betty came to State College in the mid-1960s with 3 little kids in tow, he a recent graduate of The University of Pittsburgh dental school. They rented an apartment on Hamilton Avenue, across from the current shopping center. My husband George can still remember playing on the steps of that apartment, which is still there. They moved to State College after an instructor at Pitt told him about a practice for sale in what was then a small, sleepy university town. A dentist had passed away and his wife was selling his practice. When I went to see Grandpa for my appointment last week, it was in that same space, above what is now The Growing Tree, above what for years was Kaye s Korner.
Originally from Windber, Pa., George was working as an orderly while going to the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown when he met Betty who, as a graduate of Pittsburgh s St. Francis Medical Center s nursing program, was working as a nurse. Another coincidence — I later worked in the psych unit at St. Francis, formerly the nursing dorms. They moved to Pittsburgh from Johnstown after Patty was born so he could attend dental school. To support his family, he worked a variety of jobs at night including as a security guard and in a lab slicing tissue for science. In what was non-traditional for the early 1960s, Betty worked as a nurse at Magee-Women s hospital.
There is famous story in the Kleban household about an important exam, trying to balance jobs and a toddler, nights without sleep and a baby on the way. When he finally turned in the exam, George wrote on the top It s a boy! The instructor gave it back to him a few days later with an additional note. It s an A. That boy was my husband George. Their middle son, Rick, was also born in Pittsburgh.
In more than 50 years of practicing dentistry, George found a balance between what was new while building a practice with a family feel to it. He has pictures of his kids and grandkids in the office next to the computerized X-ray system. Patients could expect warm greetings, firm guidance, excellent treatment, and, almost certainly, a stream of jokes when sitting in the dental chair. His reputation was one of solid, detail-oriented dentistry. For many years, he served as faculty for continuing education at both Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh. A few weeks ago, one of my friends who is one of the surgeons to whom my father in law refers patients asked how my father-in-law was doing. I mentioned that he was considering retiring. My friend said He s a really good dentist. Accolades from peers is about the best review a professional can earn.
The Klebans have been part of the growth of State College. From serving on charity committees to their involvement at Our Lady of Victory, they are a part of this community. He coached Pee-Wee and Little League baseball before they started following five kids in their activities – Carolyn and Tom were born after they arrived in State College. George and Betty have been on the sidelines or in the audience of just about every sport, dance and extra-curricular activity you can name, first with their own children and eventually with the 11 grandchildren (currently ranging from age 19 to 27). Track and field were always a favorite for Grandpa who placed second in the state of Pennsylvania his senior year of high school in the 180 yard low hurdles. Along with the triumphs came some tragedies, first with my husband s car accident and then Tom s life changing spinal cord injury. The community has been a part of their life throughout. From the famous Kleban tailgates to Chicken George at the Kaywood picnics, they have loved Happy Valley.
There are the funny stories about his dental practice. Local celebrities and coaches who became part of the practice family. Days when his calendar was filled with Amish patients, including the occasional kid without shoes. One favorite is when actor Jonathan Frid from the 1970s soap opera Dark Shadows was in town doing something at Penn State and he needed an emergency procedure. We were never sure if Grandpa fixed a regular tooth or one of Barnabas Collins fangs. Mostly, however, it was going to work every day, doing the job that he loves.
My husband started working for his dad in high school, pouring models and cleaning in the office. That turned into a career, first with his dad and eventually his own separate dental laboratory. He will miss the camaraderie of having his Dad as a client but is happy that his father is now taking the time to enjoy some down time. After 53 years, it is time to for Grandpa to put himself first. He will close his doors on March 31. Details will be forthcoming on a party for family, friends and his patients to come and celebrate his service to our community.
To quote Socrates, the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new. Please join me in wishing Doc, Grandpa . George Kleban, the best in retirement.
Rt Rev. Mensah was speaking in Accra as the special guest at the first end-of-year get-together, otherwise called WASSA, of the Police Academy of the Ghana Police Service last Saturday. The occasion was also used by the academy to take stock of the past year and review its strategies to improve its performance this year. The Police Academy, established in 1959, is currently the second highest institution of learning after the Ghana Police Command and Staff College and has produced leaders for the Police Service over the years.
Comparing the Security Fund to the GETFund for the educational sector, Rt Rev. Mensah said the latter fund, which would provide a structured extra financial injection into the various security services, should be used to resource, especially, the Police Service. He said the fund could be used for the provision of better equipment and smarter Information and Communications Technology (ICT) facilities that would help the police carry out their mandate. The provision of ICT facilities, he said, would enable the police to carry out criminal investigations using high tech and that could lead to a drastic drop in crime.
The world has progressed technologically and criminals are taking advantage of the sophisticated technology to outwit the police. But the police must be ahead of the criminals in terms of the use of technology, he said.
The Commandant of the academy, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Mr Anderson Fosu-Ackaah, said the get-together had become a regular feature on the calendar of the Ghana Police Service, which had been providing the platform for officers and men of the service to gather to interact and share experiences. In 2016, he said, the Police Academy, in collaboration with the Police Administration, organised courses for some selected senior police officers on election security and crowd control management for the 2016 general election. The academy, Mr Fosu-Ackaah said, served as the joint operational command centre for the Greater Accra Regional Command during the 2016 general elections.