Rabbi calls for peace
12:31 a.m. 8/23/2002
By Phil Anderson
Extra chairs were set up in the fellowship area behind the sanctuary on the off-chance a large crowd would come to the Temple, 4200 S.W. Munson.
As it turned out, all of those seats were filled and more chairs had to be brought upstairs from the basement after the service had started, with some people standing at the back of the room. A Temple official estimated the crowd at 250, with about 150 guests in attendance.
Upon seeing the large crowd, a gratified Rabbi Lawrence P. Karol said he was "overwhelmed."
Karol said he had hoped the service would allow people of diverse faith traditions the chance to come together for a time of "prayerful preparation" before this afternoon's Statehouse rally of the Minnesota-based National Socialist Movement.
During Friday's service, which began at 8 p.m., regular Sabbath prayers were said, as well as readings and songs in Hebrew and English that addressed the subject of peace.
At the outset of the service, Rabbi Karol went to the ark at the front of the sanctuary and took from it a Torah scroll that came to Topeka's Jewish congregation in 1969.
The scroll was one of 1,500 that had been confiscated by Nazis during their persecution of Jews in World War II-era Czechoslovakia, during which synagogues were razed and burned.
The scrolls had been stored with other Jewish ornaments and symbols in a warehouse in Prague before being discovered and moved to a synagogue in London.
From there, Karol said, the scrolls were distributed to temples around the world as a remembrance of the Jewish communities that no longer exist.
Karol said Jews and homosexuals were among victims targeted by Nazis during their reign of terror in World War II Germany. He said the neo-Nazi group that will be in Topeka today likely holds the same sentiments.
Opening the temple to the public on Friday night and having a large crowd attend, Karol said, made "a very strong statement" about the role faith and understanding play in Topeka.
Temple President Nancy Ramberg said Friday night's turnout was a reflection of the way people of diverse faith backgrounds can come together and unite for a common purpose.
"I think it's a wonderful show of support from the community," she said. "It just shows how we can all stand together for good and for what's right."
Another Temple member, Jerry Frieman, a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that while he opposes the message of the neo-Nazis, he supports the freedom that allows them to demonstrate today.
"Despite what they say, I support their right to do it," Frieman said, "because even misguided people have rights -- rights which they would deny to me."
As for the support from the larger Topeka community at the Temple on Friday night, Frieman said, "I'm not surprised. I'm pleased. I'd hoped this would happen, and it did."
Beth Kossoy, another Temple member, who was among those standing at the back of the overflow room, said she figured some members of the public would turn out for the service.
"But I'm surprised the whole Temple would be filled," she said. "It's nice to see we'd have this much unity against what's going on tomorrow."
Among guests at the service was Sharon Miller, of Topeka, a member of Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church.
She said she heard about the service at a Bible study and decided to come.
"I thought it would be interesting and informative," Miller said. "I think it's always better if we can live together in harmony."
Clergy and religious leaders from various congregations also were in attendance, including: the Rev. Norbert Lickteig, of Christ the King Catholic Church; the Rev. Richard Dickinson, of First Congregational United Church of Christ; the Rev. Michael Jamison, of the Unity Church of Christianity; the Rev. Douglas Phenix, of Potwin Presbyterian Church; and Duane Herrmann, of the Baha'i communities of Topeka and Shawnee County.
Phil Anderson can be reached at (785) 295-1195 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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