Temple Or Elohim’s upcoming interfaith service unites congregations
In light of the horrific even that recently happened at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the upcoming Interfaith Musical Service slated to occur on Friday, Nov. 23 at Temple Or Elohim couldn’t have happened at a better time. Cantor David Katz had been working on this service for the better part of seven months prior to the Pennsylvania mass shooting. For Katz, it made this show of religious pluralism all the more necessary.
“We have to come together against violence against anybody. No matter who it is, we can’t have this anymore and as temples, churches and mosques, we do have a voice and a pulpit, for a better word, to present an example of healing and hope and letting these people know that you can’t do this just because they believe differently or look differently,” he said. “I really mean that. I sent a message to my congregation about this. We can’t have that anymore. I’m hoping that this service can really show the community that this is where we’re headed and that if we do it together, we can do it, but we can’t do it alone.”
Joining Katz at his Jericho Temple will be Reverend Dwight Lee Wolter of the Congregational Church of Patchogue, Dr. Faroque Ahmad Khan, a founding member of Westbury’s Interfaith Institute of the Islamic Center of Long Island and Father Michael Callahan. Music will be a major component of the evening with songs played by the temple’s five-piece of volunteer congregants and a choir coming from Wolter’s congregation as well. The idea is to find and present commonality among these different religious sects.
“They’re all coming in and we’re going to basically present a service that is on a Friday night. That’s the Shabbat service for us. And then I’ve asked to intermix with prayers that they have that would reflect the same message that our Sabbath prayers have,” Katz explained. “I’m trying to really intermix so that all the faiths are represented. Because really, we’re all giving the same message. So if we can have it with three or four different representations of faith, that would just be incredible to me and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Khan’s contribution is meant to gibe with the Shabbat prayer.
“My brief presentation will be Quranic chap 1, Surah al-Fatiha—the most frequently recited passage from the Quran,” Khan said. “The seven verses are a prayer for God’s guidance and stress its lordship and mercy of God. It is recited at least 17 times a day, at the start of each unit of prayer.”
Callahan (‘Essem Quam Videri—To Be Rather Than To Seem’ says the call to follow God’s way is above all to be authentic’) and Wolter’s portions of the evening likewise fall in the same vein.
“My presentation will be the recitation, with piano accompaniment, of the James Weldon Johnson poem, ‘The Creation: A Negro Sermon’ that is based on the creation story from the Hebrew scripture, Book of Genesis,” Wolter said.
While Katz has been a cantor at Temple Or Elohim for the past several years, he had heard that an interfaith musical service was something that predated him, but hadn’t been held for nearly a decade. Coming from Long Beach’s Temple Emanuel, where this was held on an annual basis with cooperating temples and mosques taking turns hosting it every year, this was a tradition he very much wanted to reestablish in Jericho. His excitement is palpable, given that Katz’s greatest hope is that it can once again become an annual event in his current spiritual home.
“We’ll find out if I planned it right. But I know just the intention behind it is really what I am going for, which is to bring everybody together and have an interfaith experience. Because we’re all giving the same message and especially in light of this [recent] shooting. We have to come together against violence against anybody, no matter who it is,” he said.