Rabbi Abie Ingber is a true character whose impact on thousands of all ages influences their feelings toward “the other” in their midst. He dislikes the term “tolerance.” He says we tolerate an itch, not another human. We should aspire to reach celebration of another’s experience.
In November of 2012 he was appointed executive director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University in Cincinnati. In 2008 he founded the Office of Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier and serves as adjunct professor of theology. For over 30 years, he was executive director at Hillel Jewish Student Center. He celebrates life’s differences and teaches that joy is present in all religions and cultures.
Himself an immigrant, Rabbi Abie has advocated his entire life on behalf of immigrants. As a teenager, he talked his way into John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bedroom during their 1969 “Bed In” and they signed his petition for Russian Jewish emigration. In 2009, he traveled to Darfur with HIAS to experience refugees’ situation and to share the message of hope with which his Holocaust survivor parents raised him. In 2010, HIAS work took him to Uganda and Kenya. In 2012 he was an eyewitness in Ethiopia to the repatriation of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. In the fall of 2012 he logged 24,734 miles in two trips serving as the keynote lecturer at the Cameroon Muslim Student Union annual conference and at the new Museum of Dialogue of Cultures in Kielce, Poland.
Rabbi Abie co-created the 2005 award-winning exhibit, “A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People,” which has toured over eighteen American cities. In 2009, he delivered 31,009 prayers written by exhibit visitors to Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
Rabbi Abie’s work at Jesuit-run Xavier University, encourages all faith and ethnic backgrounds to encounter one other and serve together for Tikkun Olam. He has Xavier involved in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. His 4 years at Xavier have seen him take 40+ pre-med students to serve among the poor in Jamaica and Guatemala and to pray with the patients afterward. He has encouraged students to build and fly paper airplanes in the student atrium to raise money for airlifts for sick children. He has held a Kristallnacht remembrance each year. When a pastor in Florida threatened to burn the Koran, he encouraged students of all faiths to read the Koran aloud in the center of campus, showing how similar Islam is to its Abrahamic brethren. He said, “At Xavier, we do not burn books, we read them.” He has hosted an interfaith “wedding” of two of his advisory cabinet students, co-presiding with representatives of Islam, Hindu, and Catholic faiths. Afterward, everyone shared foods and dances from each culture. Every year, he invites immigrants with restaurants to share their immigration stories, their culture, their religion and their food in the student cafeteria.
Rabbi Abie has a program “Touching History” in which he invites people who have participated in historic events to speak to students and give first-hand accounts of what really happened and what their thoughts were at the time. It is always standing-room-only and attracts audiences of all ages. For students, it brings the textbook to life.