Baylor president Starr attends interfaith luncheon
By Mike Copeland Tribune-Herald staff writer
Rabbi Mordechai Rotem’s prayer of blessing for Baylor President Ken Starr:
May you live to see your world fulfilled.
May your destiny be for worlds still to come.
May you trust in generations past and yet to be.
May your heart be filled with intuition and your words be filled with insight.
May songs of praise ever be upon your tongue and your vision be on a straight path before you.
May your eyes shine with the light of holy words and your face reflect the brightness of the heavens.
May your lips ever speak wisdom and your fulfillment be in righteousness even as you ever yearn to hear the words of the Holy Ancient One of Old.
Rabbi Mordechai Rotem of Waco said a prayer of blessing for Baylor University President Ken Starr during an interfaith luncheon Tuesday that brought together Christians, Muslims and Jews.
“That was beautiful,” Starr quietly said as Rotem took his seat beside Baylor’s leader.
Rotem and Starr spoke during the invitation-only event that recognized Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews, which will be observed from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
It also is called the Day of Atonement and is observed with repentance, prayer and fasting.
Baylor president Ken Starr (left) talks with Rabbi Mordechai Rotem at an interfaith luncheon Tuesday at Baylor.
Duane A. Laverty/Waco Tribune-Herald
Marc Ellis, director of Baylor’s Center for Jewish Studies, organized Tuesday’s ceremony, which included readings from the Jewish book of prayer and songs sung in Hebrew by Rotem’s nephew, Toby Singer.
About 40 people attended the event, including university chaplain Burt Burleson, religion department chairman Bill Bellinger, graduate school dean Larry Lyon and law school dean Brad Toben.
Starr said it encouraged him to see representatives of Islam, Judaism and Christianity coming together to break bread and fellowship, “demonstrating to a troubled world that it can be done.”
An attorney and former federal appeals court judge, Starr recalled another time he observed Christians, Muslims and Jews living in harmony — during a class in Israel in which students shared their perspectives on the law.
Ellis said Starr’s attendance “signals his affirmation of the importance of our center at Baylor and his belief that at a Christian university, dialogue and diversity are critical.”
Rabbi Rotem, of Waco’s Temple Rodef Sholom, talked about the soul-searching that goes on during the Jewish holy days as Jews confess their transgressions, ask forgiveness and get closer to God.
The songs sung and played on guitar by Singer were both somber and uplifting.
“When you get rid of wrongdoing and cleanse yourself, you should be joyous,” Rotem said.
He said learning about different religious traditions “can bring about mutual respect and tolerance.”
Waco businessman Rick Dhanani, a Muslim, said he enjoyed the ceremony and thinks it can build bridges between faiths.
He applauded Baylor for hosting the event and for supporting the candlelight vigil held Saturday evening at the Islamic Center of Waco that attracted about 300 people of different faiths.
Tuesday’s ceremony ended with Singer blowing into a shofar, or ram’s horn.
“When he does that on Yom Kippur, the gates of heaven will open, and we will have a new year that is healthy and happy,” Rotem said.
The Jewish new year has just begun with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah.
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