“Crossing Bridges: Reaching Out” was the theme to the North Hills’ fourth annual International Day of Peace celebration held on Sunday at the Kearns Spirituality Center on the La Roche College campus.
The event was part of a worldwide observance of peace borne out of a 1981 United Nations resolution to promote peace on Earth; the first Peace Day celebration occurred the following year.
Longtime Pittsburgh radio personality Lynn Cullen was the featured speaker.
Since no one is against the idea of peace, Cullen said, “it is so bizarre that something so universally acknowledged as something so good is well nigh so seemingly impossible to achieve.”
She questioned whether the world has ever known a single peaceful day; she quoted a statistic indicating that there are 39 wars going on in the world right now. However, she said that despite the odds against peace, “…working toward tolerance is a worthy occupation.”
Cullen spoke of her father, who she said always lived his life trying to build bridges between people and the community. Cullen reminisced about how, as only one of a few Jews enrolled at Northwestern University in 1939 due to a quota system, he organized a weeklong symposium against tolerance entitled “Better Understanding” week, and even enlisted the help of Jewish U.S. Supreme Court justices Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter. He also was able to bring Ralph Bunch, the first black person to win a Nobel Peace Prize, to be the keynote speaker at the symposium.
Later in life, Cullen’s father endowed a lectureship at a Wisconsin college to promote tolerance and peace among different cultures.
She said of her father, “He simply couldn’t bear to see things as they shouldn’t be. He showed me how to be a better person simply by living his life.”
Clemmy Brodsky, one of the original members of the North Hills Anti-Racism Coalition and a mem-ber of Temple Ohav Shalom in Allison Park, was on the planning committee for the celebration, which included Baha’i drummers, a peace song and an interpretive dance.
The planning committee was comprised of people representing diverse faiths, including Judaism, Christianity, Hindu and Baha’i, which Brodsky said exemplified building relationships with people of different cultural backgrounds.
Brodsky quipped that the “crossing bridges” theme was appropriate for Pittsburgh, known locally as the “city of bridges,” because Pittsburghers are often reluctant to “cross bridges” between the north and south hills communities.
“Peace means stepping out into the unfamiliar or the uncomfortable,” she said. “By crossing bridges, you are reaching out to diverse cultures and people, which is the first step toward peace.”
(Hilary Daninhirsch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)