Ithaca, N.Y. — At the dedication of Ithaca’s Temple Beth-El in 1929, a Christian reverend donated a Hebrew bible to the new Jewish community.

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That bible has remained with the local Jewish congregation for decades. On Dec. 31, it was used to swear in Ithaca City Court Judge Rick Wallace, who was elected this November to the position.

“The bible symbolizes the warm welcome the Christian community gave to the Jewish community in Ithaca,” said Temple Beth-El’s Rabbi Scott Glass, who spoke briefly at the ceremony.

Wallace’s family and former Tompkins County Clerk Aurora Valenti also attended the ceremony.

Rabbi Glass, who has known Wallace since the judge was a teenager, said he suggested that Wallace, who is Jewish, use the bible because of its historic and symbolic importance.

Glass said that photos remain of the groundbreaking of Temple Beth-El the year before, in 1928, that show Ithaca’s civic leaders in attendance. Moreover, there are records that the Unitarian church and other Christian congregations donated to the new Jewish facility, according to Rabbi Glass.

“Over the course of the years, that support for the Jewish community has continued,” said Glass, who has been the synagogue’s rabbi for 39 years.

Rick Wallace is sworn in

Glass said he grew emotional at the swearing-in ceremony for Judge Wallace. He said he didn’t have an exact transcript of what he said, but the following words came from an earlier draft:

“The most important thing is the idea that the practice of justice is an extension of love, as demonstrated by the injunctions to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love the stranger, and to love God,” Glass said.

“Even as I know you will be guided by the law and pursue justice in all your deliberations, I know too you will bring love to every decision you render and all of the ways you will serve our great city.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.