May ‘your God’ bless you

“May your God bless you, and may your God bless America.�

The italics are mine.

This is how Sergio Serratto, a 24-year-old business student at Westchester Community College, closed his remarks yesterday at a groundbreaking “ceremony”:http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007711010385 for a new center for immigrant students.

My colleague Leah Rae, who was there, told me about Serratto’s extremely tolerant and pluralistic take on the usual “May God bless you, and may God bless America.”

Might it catch on?

I wouldn’t expect an American president to close a televised speech with it any time soon…

What to say to someone in mourning

What do you say to someone who is suffering or has lost a loved one?

I can tell you a few things not to say:

Are you over it?

Are you feeling better?

He’s in a better place.

At least she isn’t suffering.

God never gives us more than we can bear.

I attended a conference on bereavement this morning at Temple Israel Center of White Plains. It was put on by “Plaza Jewish Community Chapel”:http://www.plazajewishcommunitychapel.org/ in NYC, the only non-profit, community-owned Jewish funeral home around.

Who was there? Rabbis, social workers, hospice people, lay people from several synagogues, and some people who have lost spouses and other loved ones in recent years.

They talked about the mystery and uniqueness of each grieving process, how the old “stages of grief” don’t actually apply to a whole lot of people.

And they agreed that people who are mourning do not want to hear pat statements like those above and others that I’m sure you can think of.

When in doubt what to say, everyone agreed, say nothing. Just your presence and a touch can be all the comfort someone requires.

“There is a time to listen, as well, to the words that are unsaid, what is behind the words that are said, or the words that can’t be said at all,” said Rabbi Mark Sameth of Pleasantville Community Synagogue.

Pagans are students too

Marshall University may soon become the college of choice for pagans.

The school in Charleston, W.Va., has decided to allow students to miss class for a pagan holiday. The AP’s Tom Breen reports that “Marshall”:http://www.marshall.edu/ may be the only college with such a policy:

weare.jpgCHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — When George Fain visits a grave to mark a pagan holiday, she won’t have to worry about the work she’s missing in her classes at Marshall University.
That’s because her absence Thursday on the Samhain holiday has been approved by the Huntington school, which for the first time is recognizing pagan students’ desire to be excused from class for religious holidays and festivals.
The university with an enrollment of about 14,000 may be the only school in the country to formally protect pagan students from being penalized for missing work that falls on religious holidays, although others have catchall policies they say protect students of every religious faith.
But as members of the eclectic group of faiths gathered under the term “pagan� become more willing to publicly assert their beliefs, other schools may follow Marshall’s example, Fain said.
“I think we may have opened a door,� she said. “Now that we know we can be protected, that the government will stand behind us and we feel safe, it’s going to be more prevalent.� Continue reading