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by Nanci Levy | Apr 27, 2016

This I Believe - 4-10-16 - Three RabbisAn Orthodox, a Reform, and a Conservative Rabbi walk into a room…Sounds like the beginning of a good joke, but it really happened at Handmaker on April 10. On a rainy, windy Sunday afternoon, nearly 100 people arrived at Handmaker to hear what these Rabbis believed, and they were not disappointed.

Rabbi Robert Eisen had brought the idea of “This I Believe” to Art Martin, the CEO of Handmaker, last fall. “I had participated in panels like this before in other cities. I have always wanted to organize one in Tucson, and I thought that Handmaker would be the perfect venue”.  Art Martin agreed. He asked Rabbi Thomas Louchheim, who is a former Handmaker board member, to participate as well. Rabbi Yossi Shemtov was happy to help out too. “There is no place like Handmaker in town. I want the community to know that I endorse Handmaker, and this program is a great way for me to show them”.

This was not a debate. Each Rabbi told some stories, and gave the audience a general sense of what was most important to them. Rabbi Shemtov shared his belief in the importance of a person’s connection to G-d. Rabbi Louchheim talked about “Jewish Americans”, and “American Jews”, and that he does not label himself as either one, but as an American who is Jewish. Rabbi Eisen stressed that we all have a reason for being here, and that we should always strive to do better to accomplish our mission.

And while there were some slight differences in opinion, it was all done with great respect for one another. One point that they all agreed on is that it does not matter which congregation you are a part of, everyone should choose the one where they are most comfortable, and attend.

The audience was given an opportunity to ask questions of the Rabbis. There were many, and unfortunately time ran out before they could all be answered. One attendee asked how to keep youth engaged in Judaism after their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. On this subject the Rabbis were all in agreement, this begins at home. They suggested creating interesting and memorable Jewish traditions in your home, and finding ways to share with your kids how important Judaism is in your life.

Another visitor posed a question about whether the Mashiach (Messiah) has come, and if not, when he does come, how will we know. Rabbi Shemtov playfully responded that he would know that the Mashiach had come when Rabbi Eisen and Rabbi Louchheim came knocking on his door to tell him, and then they would drink l’chaim together. They all agreed that that would be something to look forward to.