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Joint celebration

LOS ANGELES — The Israeli Consulate General in Los Angeles was the venue for a reception held to celebrate the recent re-opening to students of Brigham Young Universitys Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies.
Photo by John L. HartReception was held at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles Calif. to celebrate recent re-opening of the BYU Jerusalem Center above right.
This is the first time that any church has been allowed to host a reception at an Israeli diplomatic facility said Mark Paredes the Churchs director of Jewish Relations in Southern California. The presence of many leaders from both faiths reflects the deepening ties between the Church and the local Jewish community.
The May 8 reception was sponsored by the Churchs Southern California Public Affairs Council which acknowledged the supplies and assistance received from the Jerusalem Centers BYU office the Churchs Humanitarian Services Department and the Churchs Public Affairs Department.
Speakers included Elder John C. Dalton IV Area Seventy for Southern California; Keith Atkinson the Churchs International Director of Public Affairs West; Ehud Danoch Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles; John Fishel President of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles; and Jill Newell an alumna of the Jerusalem Center.
Jewish attendees spontaneously joined in an inspiring rendition of Israels national anthem Hatikvah sung by Rachel Payne associate director of the Jewish Relations Committee who studied opera performance at the Manhattan School of Music. Her husband JD Payne also an Associate Director of the Jewish Relations Committee shared emceeing duties with Brother Paredes.
Elder Dalton highlighted the long history of support and friendship between the Jewish and LDS communities noting that more young minds eager to study will be able to learn in the land of Abraham Isaac Jacob and the other great patriarchs and matriarchs of the Bible.
Photo by John L. Hartphotos by Mimi LozanoElder John C. Dalton Area Seventy center and wife Louise meet with Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
He also paid tribute to the late Jerusalem mayor and friend of the Church Teddy Kollek: May Teddy Kolleks name and memory be blessed and may his dream of peace be fulfilled in our lifetimes.
Brother Atkinson presented a plaque of appreciation to Consul General Danoch who will return to Jerusalem in the fall in order to begin a new assignment.
The consul general reciprocated the warm wishes expressed by Elder Dalton and Brother Atkinson. The 38-year-old diplomat entertained the audience as he reflected on a trip to Utah three years ago when he met President Gordon B. Hinckley. This Consulate covers seven states including the state of Utah so when I became the Consul General I had the pleasure of meeting President Hinckley when I traveled to Utah he said. I remember the president commented on the importance of my responsibilities and then he said with a smile and youre only 35.
Appreciation was also expressed to the Church by John Fishel the head of the organized Jewish community. The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles representing the second-largest Jewish community in the United States is delighted by the reopening of BYUs Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem he said. We appreciate the efforts of our friends in the Mormon community to build strong bridges to Israel and the Jewish people.
Having attended the Jerusalem Center in the fall of 1999 a year before it closed to students Sister Newell said that the most important part of the BYU Jerusalem Center is not the center itself but the city of Jerusalem that surrounds it. She spoke of her experiences at the Western Wall.
Every time I went to the Western Wall I was touched by the people who came to worship — many that had sacrificed and traveled great distances she said. I realized that I needed to be as committed to loving and worshipping my Creator as I knew they were.
An example of the bridge-building opportunities provided by the reception was the acknowledgement to Elder Dalton by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center that he had changed his mind after originally opposing the construction of the Jerusalem Center in the mid-1980s fearing that the Church would use it as a tool to convert Jews.
Ive watched you closely for the past two decades and you have kept your word (not to proselytize) Rabbi Adlerstein said. You cant say that about too many people in todays world but Mormons have proved that they keep their word.
Photo by Mimi LozanoEhud Danoch Consul General of Israel left accepts plaque from Keith Atkinson of Church public affairs.

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