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Rabbi Holding 'Compassion' Panel in Harrison

HARRISON, N.Y. -- Rabbi Barry Kenter, president of the Center for Jewish-Christian-Muslim Understanding (JCMU) will foster discussions on compassion, diversity and inclusion Monday night at the Harrison Public Library (HPL).

Kenter said that the discussion will focus on civility and how people treat others.

"It's like chocolate and vanilla; we're all different flavors trying to achieve the same goals of bringing holiness to life," Kenter said. "It's about relating to one another in really positive, good, loving ways.

Kenter, Rabbi of the Greenburgh Hebrew Center of Dobbs Ferry, was invited to Harrison by Library Director Galina Chernykh. Chernykh was able to secure a $2,500 grant from the American Library Association for a program known as "Building Common Ground," one of only two libraries in New York State and one of 30 nationwide to receive it.

"Compassion is something that we could probably all do with a little more of, whether that means volunteering at a local soup kitchen, learning to accept someone else’s religious beliefs, or simply putting more effort into your personal relationships," Chernykh said on the HPL's blog. "And while you could simply make a promise to yourself to be more empathic, we all know that resolutions can be hard to keep."

Kenter founded the JCMU shortly after 9/11 while helping many people deal with that tragic event. The JCMU's Board of Directors, which consists of four Jews, four Christians and four Muslims said they all believe that people of the faiths of Abraham can, despite the many challenges they face, learn to live together in mutual respect and greater harmony.

Kenter said that part of the problem between different faiths is misunderstanding, while another part of it is history, adding that we live in a world where people are tried to be kept separate rather than being brought together. Kenter pointed to the diversity of Westchester County and how having contact with those from different backgrounds helps to spread compassion.

"I relish the differences in people because not everyone is the same," Kenter said. "It's about having respect and dignity and realizing that not everyone is going to agree with you and that is not a bad thing."

The HPL will host a second discussion about compassion the following Monday, May 21 when Sr. Haifa Bint-Kadi, a Muslim chaplain at Manhattanville College will speak about how to move past tolerance and into community in a diverse society on Monday, May 21. Both programs begin at 7:30 p.m.

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