OKLA. CITY —
The Jewish community of Oklahoma City came together on May 18 at the Temple B’nai Israel to celebrate Jewish unity. Many of the men present were wearing yamakas and some of them had the Oklahoma City Thunder Basketball Team logo emblazoned on them.
Larry Davis, the president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, addressed the attendees, and told of how the holiday is a joyous event and is celebrated in Israel by lighting bonfires throughout the nation. He also spoke of the first century Rabbi Shimon Baryochai who is also honored on Jewish unity day, who was one of the founders of the Karbala school of thought in Judaism. Davis also said that when Jews come together they are commanded to do charity and engage in righteous action to improve the world.
Students who participate in the religious classes sponsored by the Oklahoma City Jewish community who were present were recognized by Davis for the good works that they had done that included the planting of trees in an area of Moore where an EF-5 tornado ravaged the city in May 2013. That event was covered in the local television media as well. The Oklahoma City Jewish Federation was also involved in relief efforts in Moore. The attendees were asked by the Jewish Federation president to make contributions to several charities that were featured at the event including one that funds the training of seeing eye dogs in Israel for visually impaired citizens.
After Davis’s presentation, the attendees watched a presentation of several cyclists who performed on two ramps who seemed to defy gravity while somehow avoiding serious injury. A lunch consisting of hot dogs, beans and cole slaw was served in the Temple’s dining room as four musicians played Klezmer music for the guests.
There was a festive atmosphere at the gathering, with people greeting one another with enthusiasm, and the attendees included people of various ages and ethnicities including Rabbi Ovadia Goldman of the Chabad Center for Jewish Learning in Oklahoma City. Goldman spoke of how Jews are required to do “mitzvahs,” or good deeds, as part of their daily life.
The pictures that filled the hallway of the Temple told of how the Temple is one of the oldest Jewish houses of worship in Oklahoma and has been in operation for well more than a century. Yet it has only had five rabbis in its 111 years of existence, and its current rabbi, Vered Harris, is a woman. The pictures on the hallway also documented the role that the temple and its leaders have played in the civic life of Oklahoma. And Harris said that she and the members of Temple B’nai Israel are committed to maintaining that civic involvement.
WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.