July 14, 2024
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Jews, Christians and Muslims Gather to Say ‘No to Hate’

(Courtesy of Federation in the Heart of NJ) On Sunday, March 1, over 130 people said, “No to hate!” at “Seeing Human,” a panel discussion among Jewish, Christian and Islamic clergy, reminding attendees these religions require us to see each other as “human” first. The program was facilitated by Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), hosted St. George’s-by-the-River Episcopal Church, Rumson, and supported by Hackensack Meridian Health.

“Our goal was to bring disparate people together to share in messages of love and respect from our respective traditions,” said Rabbi Marc Kline of Monmouth Reform Temple, Tinton Falls, and Federation’s chair of interfaith initiatives. “The synchronized heartbeat was palpable, and we left knowing how blessed we are to have each other.”

Panel members included Rabbi Kline; Dr. Mohammad Ali Chaudry, president, Islamic Society of Basking Ridge; Rev. Dr. Anne-Marie Jeffery, rector, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Perth Amboy; and Rev. Dr. Semaj Y. Vanzant, Sr., Second Baptist Church of Asbury Park.

Reverend Roy asked the panel to comment on ways to move beyond preaching to the choir about fighting hate, to reach beyond the usual audience.

“Sometimes it is necessary to preach to the choir,” said Rev. Dr. Jeffery, because as aware as we think we are of those different from us, there are always those people we have trouble with. We always need to be paying attention.”

Other suggestions included building new relationships, visiting houses of worship that are different from one’s own and asking questions to learn from and connect with others.

“We should be asking questions that prompt people to think as though they are the other,” said Pastor Vanzant. Many times, people do what they do because they have never been challenged to think otherwise. Questions that put someone in the other person’s shoes can deescalate tension and root out the meanest of people’s actions and comments.”

Panelists and audience members agreed it would take a unified front rooted in love and respect to stand up to racism, bigotry and hate.

“We planned this and our forthcoming series of interfaith events to increase the decibels carrying messages of trust and engagement, to surpass those of fear-mongering, hate and ignorance that too often pass for interpersonal communication and news,” said Rabbi Kline. “Jews, Christians and Muslims came together in this cause. We look forward to expanding the dialogue to include non-Abrahamic religions in venues all around our communities.”

“It was encouraging to see the audience engaged and willing to take the initiative to reach out to people of other faiths to learn more about them as human beings,” said Dr. Chaudry. “There is hope!”

Dr. Chaudry closed the event by asking the audience to take “The Pledge to Stand Up for the Other,” which he created in 2015 to encourage people to speak up against bigotry. He and Rabbi Kline took it to the Statehouse in Trenton, where both houses of the legislature unanimously signed it. Since then, organizations all over the state have affirmed its words and signed the pledge. It reads:

“While interacting with members of my own faith, or ethnic, or gender community, or with others, if I hear hateful comments from anyone about members of any other community, I pledge to stand up for the other and speak up to challenge bigotry in any form.” (www.standupfortheother.org)

“Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey will continue to work with leaders of many faiths to confront anti-Semitism and all hate in our community,” said Joel Krinsky, board member and JCRC board liaison. “We support one another in times of challenge and celebration, and together, we can work towards making the world a safer and better place.”

For more information on the JCRC, see jewishheartnj.org/jcrc.

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