‘Get to know each other,’ speaker tells interfaith groups

‘Get to know each other,’ speaker tells interfaith groups

TEANECK – "This is a remarkable gathering that offers the sense of hope that we need in the world," said Rabbi David Saperstein to the audience at the community’s ”nd annual Interfaith Brotherhood/Sisterhood Breakfast. "Yet we also know that working together is a daunting challenge."

Saperstein, director of the Washington-based Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, was keynote speaker at Monday’s event, held at the Marriott Glenpointe here.

Participants in the Interfaith Breakfast included Sheik Saeed Qureshi, left, representing the Muslim community, and Dr. Surjeet Singh, representing the Sikh community. photos by KEN HILFMAN

Speaking to the 400 attendees about the history of Jewish-Christian relations — including "church-sanctioned anti-Semitism, pogroms, massacres, and caricatures of Jews that led to pseudo-scientific racialism that led to the Holocaust" — Saperstein said that "too many Christians held this world view."

While the situation has improved since World War II, he said, "many here today have been targets of hate crimes — Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs, in particular. We need a common ground to improve relationships,” he noted.

Saperstein added that while "leaders are indispensable … they are not sufficient. Local leaders have to provide the muscle and sinew…. It’s the doing, not just the talking, that’s indispensable."

Members of the JCRC pose with participants in the program at the Interfaith Brotherhood/Sisterhood Breakfast.

Urging those assembled to build "true friendships," the speaker faulted the media for not listening for the moderate voices of Islam.

"Why aren’t they heard?" he asked. "[W]e have let them down, and we have to accept some of the responsibility."

Citing social justice problems that need immediate attention, Saperstein mentioned health and disease in Africa; education and learning in Pakistan; debtor nations with insufficient funds for education and welfare; and water pollution and global warming.

"Tomorrow is today," he said, urging those with knowledge of technology to try to solve these problems "but not to create new forms of life … until we have transformed the world into a world of justice and peace…."

Daniel Kirsch, chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, this year’s host for the event, noted that "this is a great opportunity to show the harmony in the diverse faith communities in Bergen County." He pointed out that members of the Jewish, Baha’i, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Sikh communities were in attendance.

The program included musical selections by the Interfaith Youth Choir, under the direction of Cantor Ilan Mamber of Cong. Beth Rishon in Wyckoff. In addition, the cantor, together with pianist Jane Koch, accompanied Gale S. Bindelglass in a rendition of the song "From a Distance."

Saperstein’s presentation, "Shared Dimensions of Social Justice: Tough Moral Choices of Our Time," was introduced by Pat Kinney of the Baha’i community; the invocation was delivered by Rev. Lynne Bleich Weber of the Protestant community; and the closing prayer was offered by Rabbi Joshua Finkelstein, representing the Jewish community and serving as master of ceremonies.

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