Artist Isaac Soltes
The story isn't a new one. What sets it apart, perhaps, is the hope it engenders within us, the vision it gives us for the future. Our future, our children's future, the future of their children. A world at peace with itself, having overcome its aversion to differences, a world shining with promise of harmony for all its inhabitants.
The timing couldn't be more appropriate. September 11th, 2001 is behind us but not forgotten. We see a world still in turmoil, still reeling from 'righteous' assaults based on differing religious beliefs. How could one man's story possibly make a difference? How could anything any one of us might do possibly affect the outcome? John Denver gave us a hint when he sang about what one man can do to change the world and make it new again.
A Friendly, Diverse Neighborhood
Isaac Soltes had a vision. Not at first, of course. He had to do some living first. So his story begins in 1938 when, as a 16-year old American boy, he spent a year in Palestine, having gone there to work and study. He lived on a farm in a community filled with people of different cultures living and working harmoniously together.
The American teenager had a gift of endearing himself to others and he befriended many people. This was to be, perhaps, the happiest time of his life. Certainly the memories of working and playing with so many peoples of diverse backgrounds and beliefs stayed with Isaac for life. These happy experiences accompanied him when he returned to the USA to finish high school.
War Challenges Isaac's Dream
Soon after Isaac entered college, World War II erupted. Like many men of his day, he enlisted in the military and was sent to Europe to serve. What he saw there horrified him and shook him to the core. This experience, too, never left him and became part of the sequence of events that would define his life's work.
Returning from the European theater, Isaac resumed his college education. He married and, with his wife, began raising a family. Then, in 1948, the modern state of Israel was created, bringing to fruition the greatest hope of many Eastern European Jews and, in the process, displacing and displeasing many other people.
Tensions skyrocketed. Differences magnified. No easy solutions presented themselves. The region, once so idyllic, became torn by strife. And Isaac, of Jewish descent, found many of his childhood friends now his bitterest enemies. An ideological fence of unscalable proportions lay between them.
The young man was immersed in despair. Heartbroken, he turned his attention once again to his family and to the budding Civil Rights movement of the early 1960's. He began instilling within his children the virtue of standing firm on principles and beliefs and the understanding that people define themselves by their principles. It was in general a very troubling time for the idealistic Isaac, and he internalized many of the struggles so apparent in the world of that time.
From War Comes Inspiration
Around 1967 Isaac made his first piece of jewelry. Not satisfied with the clunky designs of that era, his daughter had asked him to fashion a small peace symbol for her. He did so and she has the piece to this day. Her request may have been the last link in the chain of circumstances that led Isaac finally to his life's purpose.
He now turned his attention to the creation of a universal symbol of peace, a statement of unity in diversity, a blending of the world's great religious symbols, a demonstration of his belief that all people everywhere, for all time, are equal in the eyes of One God. He diligently researched aspects of the world's great religions and worked on perfecting a meaningful design. Nothing like it had been done before, and his first attempts were not easily understood. He persevered, however, pouring into the project his very heart, soul and hope for universal peace and understanding.
His finished creation he christened "Oneness."
He so wanted the world's religions to respect their differences, to recognize and honor the inner spark that unites us all.
Oneness' Humble Beginnings
Isaac began making Oneness jewelry in his garage. Each piece, when ordered, was made by his hand. This meaningful symbol found its way, as a sort of poster, into a locker room at a ministerial school where two ministers-in-training saw it and immediately grasped its relevance to their fledgling ministry. Their work together was to be based on the concept, "One God -- Many Paths." She ordered a pendant for him upon his graduation (he was a year ahead of her) and he presented her with hers the following year.
As their ministry grew, they began placing more orders with Isaac for members of their congregation. One day he called them, wanting to know just who was ordering so many of his symbols of peace. Thus began a long distance relationship between Isaac and Faith and Michael Moran. Although they never met, before Isaac died he entrusted his peace message into their care with instructions to oversee its spread into the hands of a waiting world.
The Dalai Lama has noted that peace on earth will not be possible until our religions are at peace with each other. Isaac Soltes dedicated his life to this belief. His dream lives on in the form of "Oneness," a timeless, inspired design weaving together the symbols of ancient Egypt, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.
Echoes of his simple plea for harmony and understanding are heard around the globe today, as we seek ways of creating that longed-for peace. Isaac has given us a workable vision, a visual voice calling for unity in diversity, ecumenism, and religious pluralism. Will we put his truth into action? Will "Oneness" become the peace symbol for the 21st century? Perhaps so, if thinking men and women have anything to do with it. And perhaps, in the end, all any of us can really do is carry peace in our hearts along with the willingness to do whatever it takes to help make a difference.
Communicate your vision of peace with Oneness Symbol peace sign jewelry, interfaith ministers stoles and gifts!