During these chaotic times, we need faith and hope. Many of us seek help through organized religion, while others find peace in communing with nature and various other ways. We live in a democracy with the freedom to choose any religion or none, without state interference. No matter what beliefs or faith we choose to follow, we are all learning the same basic ethic of how to live a moral, peaceful, and caring life. This universal message can be found everywhere and has existed throughout the ages and among all cultures.

I have been privileged to travel a great deal, and I have always been fascinated observing varied religious rituals, spiritual practices and prayer sessions commemorating both sad and joyous occasions. After an earthquake in Mexico City, I witnessed religious groups meeting outside houses of worship because the buildings were structurally unsafe. I also saw a group a women on hands and knees crawling up severely damaged church steps, seeking answers through their faith and hope.

By contrast some years later, I attended a joyous religious festival in a churchyard outside of Athens. Parishioners and their priest sang, danced, and ate traditional food in grateful celebration. While in Madrid, I observed the very impressive sight of a solemn procession of barefoot worshippers carrying candles, walking into a church. When I visited Cuba, I heard church bells ringing Sunday morning, and saw many families going to church, in defiance of a Castro regime edict.

Probably the most impressive service I witnessed was a Hindu wedding celebration in Egypt. The groom appeared regal, dressed in white and gold military-style uniform, sitting atop a handsome white horse. On the way to the temple, he was followed by a group of men on foot, and then by many beautifully dressed women in silk saris, accompanying the bride. She was stunning in her elegant red sari and bejeweled headdress, which was to be gifted to the groom at the ceremony.

As unusual as this Hindu wedding was, I noted similarities between it and other weddings I’ve attended here in the United States, especially as it relates to heartfelt parental blessings which seem to be part of all wedding ceremonies. In our country we also have varied ways to observe religious services and spiritual events.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Yom Kippur service at Oak Park Temple, compliments of the miracle of Zoom technology. It was surprising to me how quickly I became engaged with the congregants gathered there. The prayers, psalms, and the sermon were meaningful and, as in other religious observances, the emphasis was on accepting responsibility for our misdeeds and committing to live a more caring, moral life.

As the service continued, my mind drifted to the Holocaust and the people reading their Yom Kippur prayers at that perilous time. How did so many of those brave souls continue to have faith in the face of such Nazi horror? As the rabbi at Oak Park Temple read from the Torah, I had a vision of the panic-stricken Jews burying their scriptures and artifacts to save them from Nazi ravaging.

Listening to the cantor and choir sing and to the plaintiff sounds of the cello played during the service, I became aware of my blessings, knowing that my family is safe. Gratefulness overwhelmed me even as my eyes filled with tears at the thought of those Holocaust martyrs.

The survival of Judaism is their legacy.

Would that the survival and strengthening of our democracy be our legacy. The pessimism I often feel because of the lies, hatred, and violence propagated by Trump and his followers began to fade as I participated in the service. I was uplifted by the realization that whether it be Judaism, Christianity, or any other faith or belief system, paramount to most people is that goodness and love will prevail over evil and hate. May we nurture hope and strengthen our belief that a moral, caring future is possible for all. Harriet Hausman, a 98-year-old longtime resident of River Forest, is likely America’s oldest newspaper columnist.

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