Rabbinical students of Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) organized the first-ever “Over the Rhine Jewish Benefit” (OTRJB), raising $4500 in support of neighborhood organizations assisting the needy. Individuals and organizations representing the religious and ethnic diversity of the city joined together at this event to demonstrate their shared commitment to furthering awareness and bridge-building between Over the Rhine and the Jewish community.
Mayor Mark Mallory, as well as leaders from the Over the Rhine Chamber of Commerce, the Freestore Food Bank, the Over the Rhine Soup Kitchen, and the Theater Ensemble attended the event, which took place at Rockdale Temple on the evening of November 12th. In addition to strong support and participation from HUC-JIR’s students, faculty and the administration, the benefit was co-sponsored by Temple Sholom, Rockdale Temple, Wise Temple, Valley Temple, and Beth Adam Congregation, the American Jewish Archives, the Mayerson Jewish Community Center, NFTY, he Jewish Vocational Services, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the Klau Library.
Facilitated by Randy Harris of the Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati, the evening was structured to support small group discussions focused upon the value of diversity in Over the Rhine. A significant component of the program featured an exploration of how the Jewish values of economic justice and cultural diversity translate into strengthening bridge-building between Jewish leaders and issues of concern to Over the Rhine.
Ari Plost, a 4th-year rabbinical student, envisioned and organized the OTRJB in his role as the Tikkun Olam vice president of the HUC-JIR student government. He explained, "This event reflects our ideals as future rabbis and community leaders who are committed to encouraging pluralism in our society by reaching out to those of all faiths and backgrounds. What makes an urban environment exciting - and Over the Rhine is no exception - is the opportunity for people to come together in order to learn, work, and live together. This is made all the more meaningful when we appreciate how our diverse cultural heritages all reflect a common purpose to help those less fortunate. The strong support for OTRJB by the HUC-JIR community and by the wider Jewish community reflects our commitment to social and economic justice as well as our belief in the existing and future role that the Jewish community can play in revitalizing the Cincinnati community."
The funds raised will be distributed equally to three Over the Rhine non-Profits: the Over the Rhine Soup Kitchen, the Freestore Food Bank and the Revitilizaton Initiative. Many who attended the event praised its success and pledged their support for other such initiatives. The event coordinators will be soliciting feedback over the next few months as well as organizing a group of lay leaders to support other such learning and awareness opportunities in the future. As a first step, seminary students, administrators, and faculty from HUC-JIR are planning to take a tour of the Over the Rhine, led by the Over the Rhine Chamber of Commerce President Brian Tiffany, on December 2, 2009.