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Interfaith Programs

Interfaith Rosh Hashana Liturgy in Bogotá

Bogotá, Colombia - An interfaith Rosh Hashana service took place at the UPF Peace Embassy in Bogotá on Sept. 8, 2010, led by Rabbi Richard Gamboa, the prayer leader of Sheggel (a Hebrew acronym meaning global service for peace).

Rabbinical tradition teaches that on the Hebrew New Year (Rosh Hahana), God created Adam and Eve. As a UPF Ambassador for Peace, Rabbi Gamboa considers this a party not only for the Jews but all humanity. For the past nine years he has led a liturgy in which people from diverse religious traditions unite in prayers of thanks to Heavenly Father for the gift of human life.

For the beginning of the Hebrew New Year 5771, Rabbi Gamboa made preparations assisted by his wife, Magnolia Rojas, and a Christian youth leader, Mr. Dwayght García. The following people participated as concelebrants, reading passages of holy scripture:

  • Rabbi Richard Gamboa (reading Genesis 1:26-30)
  • Mr. Mauricio Jiménez of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity in Colombia (reading Cheon Seong Gyeong 1:2:2)
  • Msgr. Santiago Miranda, Canon of the Archdiocese of Bogotá (reading Psalm 8)
  • Rev. Luis Fernando Sanmiguel of the Community of Hope Presbyterian Church (reading Isaiah 65:13-25)
  • Pastor Luis Carlos Serrano of Christian Community Path of Love (reading 1 John 4)
  • Lama Tsultrim Tarchin of the Karma Thegsum Chöling Center (reading the Heart Sutra)
  • Imam Julián Zapata of the Islamic Cultural Center of Colombia (reading Surah Al-Fatah)

Approximately 150 people of diverse religious delegations, NGOs, and other organizations attended the interfaith ceremony. Upon his arrival, the Tibetan lama presented the rabbi with a kata (a white silk scarf) sent by the Dalai Lama, and a cylinder of incense sticks from Bhutan. 

Each religious leader read from his sacred book:

Rabbi Gamboa centered his sermon on the importance of loving all people without distinction of faith, race, nationality or socio-economic status, because we are created in the image and likeness of the Heavenly Father. “To love God is to love all humanity," was the motto of the occasion.

The kiddush or sanctification of the fruit of the vine, was offered by women representatives of each religious tradition present; this rite was presided by Dr. Claudia González, representative of Transform Colombia Net, an interreligious NGO providing social services founded by Senator Charles Schultz, an Ambassador for Peace.

Representative women of various religions drank the grape juice as they finished reciting the kidúsh: Magnolia Rojas; Margie Montenegro, president of Women’s Federation for World Peace in Colombia; Mrs. Sanmiguel; and Mrs. Serrano.

The religious leaders took in their hands the trays of Arab bread (which was shared with everyone present at the end of the ceremony) and recited together the blessing of the bread, asking God for prosperity and sustenance in the New Year. 

Dr. Juan Carlos Almonacid, Mayor of Teusaquillo, recited a prayer for peace in Colombia, representing all the government officials in the country. Engineer Iván Sarmiento, delegate of the NGO Am Israel in Colombia, recited a prayer for the peace of the Holy Land, asking God for peace among Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Alejandro Perea, president of the Youth Federation for World Peace in Colombia, read a prayer for the peaceful reunification of Korea. Mrs. Carmen Zambrano, representative of the Ecumenical Collective of Christian Nurses of Colombia, read a prayer for the unity of Christians.

Religious leaders continued by reading Psalms and other prayers. 

Among other traditions established for the interfaith service of the Hebrew New Year are offering floral bouquets as expressions of appreciation. Recipients this year included  Dr. Moisés Montenegro, executive secretary of UPF-Colombia, and his wife Mrs. Margie de Montenegro, president of the Women’s Federation for World Peace in Colombia. A special gift was given to Mrs. Maki Tokai in gratitude for her friendship and out of admiration for the Japanese people. 

Hon. Efraín Torres Monsalvo, a Member of the House of Representatives, sent a letter of greetings for the New Year, which was read during the service.

Pastor Serrano and Rev. Sanmiguel offered benedictions, followed by blessings invoked by Mr. Jiménez and Lama Tarchin.

Rabbi Gamboa then recited the Birkat Cohaním (the priestly blessing). In another tradition of this interfaith liturgy, the multilingual Brajót HaRav (greetings of the rabbi), he greeted everyone in Hebrew, Latin, Arabic, Korean, Japanese, English, Tibetan, and Spanish: “May we be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year."

When the service was over, Arab bread was shared with everyone present as they engaged in conversation. The end of Ramadan coincided with Rosh Hashana this year. Two Ambassadors for Peace gave a public demonstration of brotherhood among the houses of Ismael and Isaac: Imam Zapata and Rabbi Gamboa embraced and exchanged greetings at the end of the Ramadan fast and for the beginning of the Hebrew New Year. 

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