Celebration of Universal Religion
The Vedanta Center of St. Petersburg held its first annual Celebration of Universal Religion weekend retreat May 4 & 5, 2019. This year the focus was on Judaism. Our guest speaker was Rabbi Adir Glick, spiritual leader of congregation West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, IL.
Saturday’s program consisted of three sessions. The topic of the first was Prophets, Priests & Temple: Ancient Israel and Biblical Times. He said that Judaism was between 2500 and 4000 years old and was two different religions; biblical reality in the beginning and rabbinic Judaism to the present time. The bible is the story of the contract of man with God; and their most holy book, the Torah, is comprised of the first five books of the bible. They still hold on to the biblical stories and beliefs. He gave us an insight into the prophets such as Abraham, the father of Judaism, and his struggle with God. How he was guided by God to leave his home and establish the Holy land.

The topic of the second session was Rabbis, Sages & Mystics: The Judaism of the Rabbinic Era to Today. After persecution and exile, including the destruction of their temples, the priests did not have a place for worship. A group of scholars i.e. Rabbis, created a new way of worshipping by focusing on the people and the household. There was a threefold way of living: worship, study, and deeds of loving kindness. This was to help people live together and practice their faith.

The third session was titled Two Great Ancient Religions: Points of Intersection and Opportunity. He approached the subject from a spiritual point of view, and also a scholarly point of view. He stated that Judaism and Hinduism shared similar backgrounds even though they lived totally separate existences far apart. Hinduism being suppressed by foreign invasion and Judaism by exile. The common denominator being that both depended on the strength of the faith being held in the home. Family and community sharing rituals, meditation and prayer. He brought together the struggles and the fortitude of the people to rebuild their nations and sustain their faiths. Both religions believe in reincarnation and both share having mythology as a part of their history. Both societies have a connection to the ancient and both bring the ancient into the new and the new into the ancient with vibrancy.

At the end of the day there was a question and answer session. Before and after each session there were musical offerings by Jay Traylor. Lunch was also served in the garden of the Center.

On Sunday morning, May 5, 2019, Rabbi Glick gave a lecture titled From the Baal Shem Tov to Ramakrishna: My Personal Journey into Jewish and Hindu Mysticism. He mentioned that he grew up in a home that had the Torah, some Hindu books, and even some children’s books telling stories of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda etc. These were the books that influenced him in his love for both Judaism and Hinduism. His time spent living in Calcutta as a teenager and serving in Nepal doing social work furthered his interest in the Ramakrishna movement and different aspects of Hinduism. He brought together the reality of how by studying other religions we can enhance the understanding in our own religion.

Rabbi Glick emphasized on the importance of progressive and open outlook among the leaders of major religions. He also mentioned that spirituality is deeply a personal matter and should be found within oneself.

After the service lunch was served in the garden to all who attended.

Celebration of Universal Religion weekend retreat

From the Baal Shem Tov to Ramakrishna: My Personal Journey into Jewish and Hindu Mysticism

Sunday lecture May 5, 2019