An advertisement published in the Daily Nexus evoked controversy among some Jewish students and community members yesterday when it included a sacred Hebrew form of the word “God.”
Printed on the back page of yesterday’s paper, the ad purchased by the Lebanese Club promoted an event featuring documentary and interfaith dialogue between the three Abrahamic religions. It depicted a Star of David, a cross and a crescent moon and star in representation of the three faiths with the name of God written below in Hebrew, English and Arabic. The Lebanese Club event took place yesterday at 6:30 p.m. in the MultiCultural Center Theater.
According to Jewish tradition, God is sometimes referred to as YHWH – pronounced “Yahweh.” According to Santa Barbara Hillel Rabbi Allison Conyer, the Hebrew form of the name is typically not printed.
“One student came to me today very concerned about it, because you’re not supposed to write the name of God,” Conyer said. “[The Lebanese Club] was not sensitive to how we write the name of God … and did not ask for co-sponsorship of the event.”
However, Lebanese Club President Alexander Baradei said he visited a Hillel Board meeting last week to have the flier pre-approved.
“I went to Hillel, invited them to the event and showed them the flier, and they did not say anything was wrong with it,” Baradei said. “If they had complained about it after I showed them, it would have been an easy fix.”
Additionally, Baradei, a third-year biopsychology and Middle East studies major, said he had consulted a UCSB professor prior to the creation of the flier, who also confirmed he had written the name of YHWH correctly.
Conyer said that at the time the flier was presented to the Hillel Board, it did not know how the club would distribute it.
“We did not know that the flier was going to be published in the Nexus,” Conyer said.
According to Jewish law, once the name of God is written down, it is not to be thrown away. Rather, it must be buried in the ground in a “genizah” or burial site specifically designated for depositing worn-out Hebrew texts.
However, UCSB Chabad Rabbi Mendel Loschak said that since the publication was not intended for creating a holy book, the paper would not require burial.
“I basically advised students that we are very careful with God’s name for everything with mass distribution,” Loschak said. “This wasn’t specifically geared toward making a holy book and was just an image … It is not something that you would need to go around and bury.”
Conyer also urged students to remain calm and said she does not blame the Lebanese Club or the Daily Nexus for printing the name of YHWH but said more effective communication could have prevented the incident.
Third-year global studies major Nima Kamali helped organize last’s night event in the MCC. He said the negative response from some members of the Jewish community surprised him, in light of the event’s purpose.
“This event [was] supposed to show how these three religions are related to one another and the way that these communities are acting together in the Middle East,” Kamali said. “You have to look at the fact that there was no intention to offend anybody. This is trying to promote peace.”