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Ta Shema: October 8, 2021

Dear Bnai Israel Family,

I am proud to have signed on to the following letter along with so many local interfaith clergy. With the FDA finally approving vaccines for children 5 and older, we are a step closer to out-smarting this virus. As we reread the beginning of the Torah this time of year, we see with new eyes all the ways that our Biblical Ancestors thrived and, more often than not, missed the mark. These stories inspire us to do better. Please share this statement widely with anyone who might be on the fence about the vaccine. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Bender

Dear Wilmington area Neighbors,

Grace and peace to you. We are members of Wilmington Faith Leaders United, an interfaith, multi-racial, group of ministerial leaders who seek racial reconciliation, social justice, fellowship, and peacemaking in our community. Though we are of many faiths, there is one common thread that connects all of us: the love and care of our neighbor. That common thread compels us to reach out to you today because our community is in crisis caused by the global pandemic of COVID-19 and its variants.

As faith leaders, we have seen the impact this virus has had on our communities, and how it has altered lives forever. We have buried those who died from COVID. We have seen people lose both parents at the same time to this virus. We have held social distance funerals where loved ones could not be present. We have provided care to those navigating loss of life and/or loss of livelihood. It is devastating, and only by acting together can we make the necessary impact to bring safety and restore wholeness to our community.

We believe that in order to love and care for our neighbor with our full hearts, all who are eligible need to receive the COVID-19 Vaccine and boosters. We do not say “should” or “may,” but need because all our faiths make “love of our neighbor” one, if not the most prominent, display of our faith.

For example:

“Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world”. -Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Yerushalmi Talmud 4:9

“Do you not see that God has subjected to your use all things in the heavens and on earth, and has made His bounties flow to you in exceeding measure, seen and unseen?”-Qur’an 31:20

“Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”- Luke 10:25-28

This is our moment, and this is our time to live into our shared purpose. This is the place for people of all faiths to put the life of our neighbor first, especially knowing that those most vulnerable neighbors are the children. The way to do this is to get the COVID 19 vaccine, so we can protect ourselves and our entire community.

So, if you have not yet received a vaccination, we plead with you to do so. To find a location to receive your free vaccine, please click here:

Getting the vaccine may not only save your life - it will help save your neighbor’s life, as well!


  • The Rev. Jonathan Conrad, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Wilmington
  • Rabbi Emily Losben-Ostrov, Temple of Israel
  • Rabbi Chaya Bender, Bnai Israel Congregation
  • The Rev. John McLaughlin, St. Jude's Metropolitan Community Church 
  • Imam Abdul Rahman Shareef
  • The Rev. Dr. Clifford Barnett, Warner Temple AME Zion Church
  • The Rev. Dan Lewis, First Presbyterian Church
  • The Rev. Bill Adams, Fifth Ave United Methodist Church
  • The Rev. Shawn Blackwelder, St. Paul’s Utd Methodist Ch, Carolina Bch
  • The Rev. Tara Lain, Superintendent of the UMC Harbor Conference
  • The Rev. Brad McDowell, First Christian Church of Wilmington
  • The Rev. Cheryl M. Walker, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Wilm
  • The Rev. R. G. Elliott, Rector, St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound Episcopal Ch
  • The Rev. Aaron Doll, Bethany Presbyterian Church
  • The Rev. Dan Keck, Kure Beach Memorial Lutheran Church
  • The Rev. Bill Milholland, Lutheran Church of the Reconciliation
  • Deacon LeRon Montgomery, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church
  • Rev. Jeff Jones, Covenant Moravian Ch and Water of Life Lutheran
  • The Rev. Dr. Nancy Lee Jose
  • The Rev. Marty Aden, Director of the Spiritual Care Dept at N Hanover RMC
  • The Rev. Michael Megahan, D. Min., Ph.D, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
  • The Rev. Cynthia V. Vaughan
  • The Rev. R. Bayley, Interim Pastor, St Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Ch
  • The Rev. Bill Cottingham
  • The Rev. Susanne Priddy, Lead Pastor, Wesleyan Chapel UMC
  • The Rev. Emile Harley - Winter Park Presbyterian Church
  • The Rev. Hannah Vaughan, Retired, Presbyterian of Coastal Carolina
  • The Rev. Jason Huebner, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Southport
  • The Rev. Meg McBride, Hope Recovery Community UMC
  • The Rev. C. Eichorn, St. Luke Lutheran Church, Ocean Isle Beach
  • The Rev. Thomas O. Nixon, Senior Pastor St. Stephen A.M.E. Church
  • The Rev. Chuck Davis Jr., On Time Ministries, Incorporated
  • Sr. Rosemary McNamara, SU,UNCW Catholic Student Center
  • The Rev. Jody Greenwood, Church of the Servant Episcopal
  • The Rev. Elder Janyce Jackson Jones, Unity Fellowship Church Movement -Jurisdiction 3
Tue, October 4 2022 9 Tishrei 5783