Hamptons Soul: A Rabbi and a Priest Walk into a Bar…

Silhouette human hands open palm up on sunset. Mercy, Humble, Repentance, Reconcile, Adoration, Glorify, Christmas, Redemption, Redeemer, Eucharist, Year 2016, Love, Jesus Christ, Blessed, God concept
Image: Olegdudko/123RF

The bright lights and candles that sparkle throughout the holiday season remind us of the warmth and wonder that we share with one another across the East End and beyond…

Father Constantine Lazarakis

Father Constantine Lazarakis
Father Constantine Lazarakis

The Season is upon us! In spite of the pandemic, the main streets of our villages twinkle with little lights, brightly lit Menorahs and Christmas trees adorn shop windows, the air is brisk with the promise of snow, and while the days are still getting shorter, we know that the dark cold nights will soon begin to wane and that sunlight will start to win back a minute or two each day. We know that longer brighter days are coming. And so, whether it is the lighting of the Manorah, the anticipation of Advent, or even just looking forward to the lengthening of the days, we are all waiting in anticipation of the light during this sacred season.

As we light our candles and string our lights, as we look ahead through the cold winter to more sunshine, I’d like to suggest one other place to which we might look to find a bright inextinguishable light: inward. In the heart of each human being, there shines (even if it is hard to find sometimes) the light of our Creator. This is why the book of Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve (and by extension all men and women, each one of us and every one of us) were created in the image and likeness of God. In each person we encounter, we can find the light of God.

And so, Just as Rabbi Joshua and I (a priest and rabbi walked into a bar…) forged a friendship in the most unlikely of places some years ago, all of us can find the hope, joy and promise of the season of light, even in the dead of winter. The thing is, that in order to do so we need to be receptive to the light. We must believe that the light is there. And so, as we trudge our way through these difficult days, let us embrace one another with determination. Let kindness be our guiding principle. Let us know that the way for the light to overcome the darkness is for us to find the light of God in our fellow human beings.

Rabbi Josh Franklin

Rabbi Josh Franklin
Rabbi Josh Franklin

A rabbi and a priest walk into a bar …

While you might have thought that this was a joke, and a punchline would follow, it’s actually the story of how I met Father Lazarakis. Several years ago, the two of us attended a charity event at Stephen Talkhouse, a local Amagansett bar famous for its live music. A rabbi and a Greek Orthodox priest walked into a bar and became friends. As the Jewish holiday of Chanukkah begins, this story might seem a bit ironic. After all, the holiday’s origins began with Jews and Greeks fighting each other.

Back in the Second Century BCE, the Greeks persecuted the Jews and sought to eradicate them through forced Hellenization. A group of Jews known as the Maccabees incited a revolution to fight the Greeks and waged a campaign of guerrilla warfare against them. The Jewish army miraculously defeated the Greeks, and a new holiday celebrating the victory was born. The celebration of Chanukkah has long forgotten any hint of its indigenous animosity towards the Greeks. To the contrary, celebrating Chanukkah now ritualizes a sense of unity and fellowship. As a popular Jewish Chanukkah song teaches, “Each one of us is a small light, but together, we are a steadfast light.” On Chanukkah, I’m reminded that our interfaith partnerships spread a warm light over the cold and dark past when Jews suffered through pogroms, antisemitism and other forms of persecution.

Father Lazarakis will be joining the Jewish Center of the Hamptons this year for a virtual menorah lighting, and I hope that you will, too. Whether you’re Jewish or from another faith tradition, we invite you to take part in this Jewish ritual of bringing light to our community. When a rabbi and a priest walk anywhere together, you should expect great things to happen.

READ MORE HAMPTONS SOUL

More from Our Sister Sites