Special to the JTA Three Rabbis Participate in Religious Summit in Japan
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Special to the JTA Three Rabbis Participate in Religious Summit in Japan

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Forty-two years ago this month, atomic bombs fell on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs brought World War II in the Pacific to an abrupt and merciful end, saving more than a million Allied and Japanese lives.

But those horrific explosions also marked the beginning of a new kind of existence for all mankind — existence in a nuclear age, an age in which man has the power to destroy his entire planet.

This week 20 world religious leaders gathered at the top of the Japanese mountain of Mt. Hiei to participate in a Religious Summit calling for yet another age — an age of world peace without nuclear weapons.

Representing American Judaism at this prestigious gathering of religious leaders was Rabbi Joseph Glaser, the executive vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (the professional association of Reform rabbis in the United States, Canada and abroad).

As the only American participating in the Religious Summit, Glaser also has the honor of representing the United States clergy at Mt. Hiei, which is known as the cradle of Buddhism in Japan.

Initially, Glaser was the only Jewish representative to be invited to participate in the summit. However, at Glaser’s suggestion, the “Japan Conference of Religious Representatives” added invitations to one Orthodox rabbi from Israel and one from South America: Israel Lau, Chief Rabbi of Netanya, and Pinchas Brenner of Caracas, Venezuela.

Other world religious leaders participating in the Religious Summit included two Catholic representatives from the Vatican, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, three Buddhist leaders, two Islamic leaders, and a Hindu, Sikh, Dao and Confucian leader.


The gathering was coordinated by the Japan Religious Committee for the World Federation, an organization of religious groups in Japan established in 1945 after experiencing the nuclear bombing at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Committee’s principal proposal is that the year 2001 should be named “Year One” of the Age of Peace for Mankind, an age free from the threat of all nuclear weapons.

During the week-long conference, Glaser and his wife, Agathe, joined with the other participants in touring some of Japan’s cultural marvels and in commemorating a number of local memorials. The week also included a visit to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But the central moments of the Conference occurred Monday and Tuesday during the two-day Religious Summit at the top of Mt. Hiei, a mountain located on the outskirts of the Japanese city of Kyoto.

Each religious leader was asked to speak on two occasions during the summit on Mt. Hiei, first sharing thoughts on “The Way to Peace” and later offering a personal “Prayer for Peace.” During his remarks to the world gathering, Glaser spoke of the Jewish concept of peace.

“Our Hebrew word shalom means more than cessation of war,” explained Glaser. “It means wholeness and completeness. Since one side to a conflict cannot have shalom without the other, it follows that both sides must be part of this wholeness. Everyone is involved or there is no shalom. Not only everyone is involved, but the demands of wholeness require everything; justice, freedom, plenty.”

Glaser characterized the transcending task of religious leaders to be that of “hearing the cry of the oppressed, the victims, the prisoners, the hungry.” And ultimately, the mission of every religious leader is “to teach” a sense of compassion to all mankind — a compassion that would lead to a world of peace.

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