In a first for New South Wales, a senior Jewish rabbi from America was guest speaker to over 400 young single Mormon adults Sunday night, 26 August, in Villawood. The audience, convened from Sydney and its suburbs, also heard remarks from Ian Leneham, president of the Newcastle Stake (diocese) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Rabbi John Crites Borak from Amud ha-Shachar/First Light in Los Angeles, California, USA, has been active in fostering relationships between the Jewish and Mormon communities. Speaking at similar sessions in the US and recently in Brisbane and New Zealand, he believes the two communities should come to an understanding of their similarities as well as their differences.
He feels that service is an area in which the two faiths can unite, a precept with which Latter-day Saints firmly agree.
“Also, on the substantial common ground of values and morals, there is much more that unites us than divides us,” said President Leneham. “Christianity sprang from Judaism, and Latter-day Saints have a great affinity for those of the Jewish religion—for their history, their beliefs, and their role in society.”
Rabbi Borak read from Hebrew text and discussed the value of prophets in biblical times. Addressing the theme, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,“ (Proverbs 28:18) he acknowledging the spiritual benefits of having a living prophet, as the Mormons do. He said, “I love Latter-day Saints because they are so connected with God. It is rejuvenating!”
He encouraged the young people to “embrace your faith with as much passion and commitment as you can,” and he later said that he hoped the Mormons would encourage their Jewish friends in the same way.
Both leaders expressed the need to choose wisely and carefully during this defining time of life.
In closing remarks, President Leneham counselled the young people to serve others and to let go of self-pity and self-indulgence. “Learning is one of the purposes of mortality, and its perfect design includes trials and challenges.”
Meetings such as this are part of a continuous course of activity and instruction for members of the Church ages 18 to 30.
President Leneham has been in a guiding role for youth and young single adults for much of his life. A psychologist by vocation, he served as a bishop for four years and as a stake president for nine and a half years.
Rabbi Borak has enjoyed teaching about the Old Testament to Mormons in the US.