Local and national faith leaders guide public conversation at NJPAC

Local and national faith leaders guide public conversation at NJPAC

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark will host an in-person program, Standing in Solidarity, March 4. The program is about the importance of interfaith collaboration to stem the rising tide of hate. Standing in Solidarity is NJPAC’s ongoing series of social justice conversations, often paired with a PSEG True Diversity film series screening.

The PSEG True Diversity film that day is “A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting.” An abridged version of the documentary will be screened in the Chase Room at NJPAC at 6 p.m., and a panel conversation with local and national faith leaders will follow from 7 to 8:30.

The Standing in Solidarity program — “A Tree of Life: Uprooting hate through interfaith actions” — is inspired by lessons learned in 2018 after the mass murder of 11 worshippers in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was the largest antisemitic attack in U.S. history, and in its wake, faith leaders united to comfort their Jewish neighbors and spearhead advocacy campaigns to combat gun violence.

Six years later, there’s an urgent need for constructive conversations among people from different faith groups, as an uptick of antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crimes has followed the start of the war in Gaza last fall. In addition, hate crimes are known to increase during presidential election seasons, according to the Leadership Conference Education Fund.

“This is an important time for us to build bridges across chasms of difference,” Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz, of Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, who is the president of the Coalition of Religious leaders for the State of New Jersey and one of the Standing in Solidarity panelists. “There are many of us who are feeling existentially lonely and without a sense that others care about our respective communities. We are obliged to prop each other up.”

The conversation will be moderated by Rev. Frederick Davie, senior strategic adviser to the president at Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and senior adviser for racial equity at Interfaith America.

In addition to Rabbi Gewirtz, the panelists include Rev. Dr. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, and Imam Mohamed Magid, executive religious director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center in Virginia, commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and chairman of the International Interfaith Peace Corps.

“Racism, antisemitism, gun violence — it is more important than ever that thoughtful, collaborative conversations about these essential societal issues take center stage in our community,” John Schreiber, the president and CEO of NJPAC, said. “As a home for respectful civic dialogue, NJPAC is pleased to host this one-of-a-kind interfaith discussion and film screening.”

The program is co-produced by NJPAC’s Black and Jewish Understanding Project, which seeks to foster alliances between Black and Jewish communities in the greater Newark area through dialogues, mentorship programs and other initiatives. The Black and Jewish Understanding Project is funded by Edison Properties Newark Foundation.

For more information, go to www.njpac.org/event/a-tree-of-life-uprooting-hate-through-interfaith-actions-2/.

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