Psalm 150 in Spanish – My Experiences as a Student Rabbi in El Salvador by Scott Fox

Psalm 150 sounds different in Spanish.  Singing from a small worn hymnal, an El Salvadorian pastor sang us songs from his tradition while we stood, a group of sweaty, dirt ridden and inspired young rabbinical students from across the United States, in a circle.  After a short while, his father and daughter joined in on their sweet quiet song.  They finished and we applauded, and then returned the favor and sang a new harmonized melody for the song Sim Shalom (which means grant us peace!)

In exchanging the songs of our peoples we shared a deep part of ourselves with each other, and made the human connection that makes this world a beautiful place. We sang together in his church, which was a structure of metal pipes and palm fronds, no seats, because we had spent that morning helping him build a composting latrine on this plot, which was also his home.Until then he had only his neighbor’s kindness to rely on for his basic needs, and that latrine was now collapsing.  They are a community that shares, but has little.

This summer I spent 10 days in Ciudad Romero, El Salvador with 16 now close rabbinical students and Jewish leaders, on the American Jewish World Service Rabbinical Student’s Delegation.

Our mission was to travel to this community, which has suffered terribly since the civil war in El Salvador, and lend our hands, money and hearts to their struggle.  I was honored to help them build needed structures and stand with them in solidarity while they experienced the exceptional difficulties life threw at them.  I hope that we might have lent some aid to the community there.  Regardless, they filled me with a sense of the power of a community to come together to face challenges.

This reminded me of the power of our own communities, to face challenges here and abroad.

I plan to speak about how our community can be empowered by the lessons I have learned on this trip when I return to Fairmount Temple this fall. I will be visiting Cleveland to work at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple as student rabbi beginning in September. On Friday, September 28th, I hope to begin to share some of my thoughts in regards to my experience in Ciudad Romero with the Jewish community in Cleveland.

It is my prayer that we continue to learn from the journeys of our brothers and sisters abroad, and never cease to hear their voice in song.

-Scott Fox is an entering fifty year rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. He will continue his service to Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple as our student rabbi with visits on a monthly basis from September 2012 through May 2013 when he will be ordained a rabbi. This past summer he participated in a rabbinical delegation visiting Ciudad Romero and El Salvador, sponsored by the American Jewish World Service.