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Rabbi Conrad Remembered with 'Social Action Shabbat'

Memory of Temple Kol Ami founding father to be celebrated with interfaith dialogue, Oneg Shabbat service and free concert.

ln loving memory of its founder Rabbi Ernst J. Conrad, the Temple Kol Ami Social Action Committee and its congregation will celebrate Shabbat this weekend with the Muslim Unity Center of Bloomfield Hills.

The first event of its kind at the Reform Jewish temple, founded in 1966, the Social Action Shabbat will feature a discussion of Jewish/Muslim sacred texts as well an Oneg Shabbat service beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday. On Sunday afternoon, TKA members will travel to a cultural exchange program at the Muslim Unity Center.

It was a dream of Conrad to see humanity live in harmony, having pushed for civil rights for women and African-Americans in the 1960s while working as a rabbi at Temple Beth Jacob in Pontiac. Conrad was known as a peace activist, speaking out against the 2004 war in Iraq while striving for the Jewish ideal of tikkun olam (pronounced tih-KOONE oh-LUM, meaning "repairing the world" or "world restoration" and referring to contributions benefitting others regardless of religious affiliation.).

In 2003, he received the nonprofit organization Michigan Coalition for Human Rights' Lifetime Commitment Award for his work in strengthening.

"Regardless of any enmity throughout the world, Rabbi Conrad taught that humans should live comfortably," said congregation co-president Lee Schottenfels. "We hope this event for allow for a lesson in greater understanding and tolerance for our children to benefit them as they grow up."

On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Nathalie Conrad, the Temple Kol Ami Music Director Emerita and Conrad's widow, will help present a concert featuring other local musicians. All in the community are welcome, free of charge and the Temple Sisterhood will provide refreshments afterward.

From an original congregation consisting of the Conrad family and eight founding families, Kol Ami has grown to about 340 families dedicated to giving back and going about it in many different forms. Earlier this year, Kol Ami raised funds through a one-time annual pledge, based on personal discretion, in lieu of an annual membership statement. 

In addition, the congregation has made headlines by sharing space with the Conservative B'nai Israel Synagogue since 2010.

Rabbi Norman T. Roman, who took over the job of leading Temple Kol Ami in 1986, eulogized Conrad as a community leader.

"Ernst strove to bring Jewish and universal values to life and to all humanity," Roman wrote three years ago. "It was not enough merely for him to study and teach the word of Scripture, or to be constantly referring to the Torah in its Holy Ark."

Temple Kol Ami is located at 5085 Walnut Lake Rd., West Bloomfield. For more information, visit tkolami.org or call the temple office at 248-661-0040.

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