It is Yuletide in Cincinnati, and, yesterday, I did the traditional downtown Christmastime annual tour with my mother. On the corner of Eighth and Plum Streets are four Cincinnati landmarks: the city hall, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Peter in Chains, the Isaac Wise Plum Street Temple, and an old Protestant Congregational church that has been turned into an office building. The Latin cathedral and the Jewish building face each other across Plum Street. As we arrived at the corner, we noticed a sign set up on the steps of Saint Peter in Chains that read, “Happy Hanukkah from your Catholic Neighbors.” I smiled and thought an “only in America” internal cliché. My mother had never before seen the beautiful Isaac Wise Temple, and I had hoped that it would be open, but all of the doors were locked. So, we visited the city hall and the cathedral. Upon leaving Saint Peter in Chains, we saw a fellow across the street open up the central doors to the synagogue. He also set up a sign out front that read something like, “Merry Christmas to the parishioners of Saint Peter in Chains from Isaac Wise Temple.” I smiled even more and knew that Tocqueville would be proud. Simple acts of goodwill go very far in creating an environment of tolerance and trust among people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and interests. Thoughtful gestures cannot substitute for virtue and reason, but they definitely help.
So, kudos to the parishioners of Saint Peter in Chains and to the congregation members of the Isaac Wise Temple. Would that the nation follow their lead instead of seeing every holiday as a turf battle in the multicultural wars.