In a show of unity, Christians, Jews, Muslims and observers of other religions gathered with their respective spiritual leaders for an interfaith Shabbat service at Temple Or Elohim, A Community Reform Congregation in Jericho.
Held the day after Thanksgiving, it as the Jewish synagogue’s first interfaith service since the pandemic. The revival of the interfaith service comes during a tense period with the ongoing war in Israel and a sharp rise in antisemitism, Islamophobia and racial rhetoric and violence in the U.S. and on Long Island in recent years. Tensions have escalated further since the Oct. 7 attacks in the Gaza Strip in Israel and the ongoing war and hostage crisis.
A Different Voice
Amid that backdrop, Cantor David Katz of TOEACRC set the tone for the interfaith service in his opening remarks. “We’re here to come together to give a different voice,” Cantor Katz said. “I don’t have to tell everybody what’s going on. We know. Those of you who have made a choice to come, you came out obviously for what we’re trying to do. Coming together.”
Sharing the pulpit with Cantor Katz were Father Michael Callahan; Reverend Dwight Lee Wolter, pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue; Joginder Singh, who represented the Sant Nirankari Mission of Westbury and Dr. Faroque Khan, a board member of the Islamic Center of Long Island.
“I’m delighted to be here with all of you in this difficult time,” said Khan, who is also chairman of the Interfaith Institute of Long Island. Cantor Katz recently joined the Interfaith Institute’s Board of Trustees, along with Temple Or Elohim VP Laurel Fried.
Dr. Kahn introduced Adil Khwaja, a student at Hofstra University and son of the Islamic Center of Long Island’s president Amin Khwaja. Adil Khwaja, who recited the Adhan, the Muslim Call to Prayer, explained its meaning. “It comes from the Arabic word, to listen,” he said. “It serves as an alert to the Muslims and believers to come to the mosque so they can pray.”
Reverand Wolter, who attended the June Concert Against Hate, said he was happy to travel from Patchogue to Jericho to participate in the service. “Nothing would keep me from being here,” he said. “If I had to crawl here, God as my witness, I would have done so because I believe in you; I believe in God. God has many holy meanings.”
The Reverand, also a member of the Interfaith Institute, took a picture of the call to worship, noting he was eager to share it with his followers. He concluded by reciting the famous passage from the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Father Callahan, a Catholic priest on Long Island for over 40 years, and Cantor Katz are longtime friends, who often perform interfaith weddings together. Father Callahan shared his knowledge of Hebrew, reciting a verse of Hinei Ma Tov.
“As Cantor Katz knows, my Hebrew is not very good,” Father Callahan said. “But he also knows I’m willing to give it a go.” Cantor Katz responded that Father Callahan’s “Hebrew is better than he thinks. When we do interfaith weddings, he chants the Shehecheyanu and the blessing for wine, and it’s beautiful to hear.”
Father Callahan Issues A Call for Activism
Father Callahan addressed the current hostility stemming from the attacks by Hamas, saying activism today is needed. “Activism gives us as individuals a place to channel our feelings, whether they be feelings of fear or anger, whatever,” he said. “Rather than sit at home on our bottoms and throw our hands up saying ‘there’s nothing I can do with all these terrible things happening in the world,’ we’re all called to action.” Father Callahan concluded with a verse from the Psalms. “Behold, how good. How pleasant it is for God’s people to dwell together in unity.”
The final presentation was Joginder Singh, representing the Sant Nirankari Mission, which describes itself as an “all-embracing spiritual movement dedicated to human welfare” that is neither a religion nor a sect. Based in India, there are 3,000 Sant Nirankari Mission chapters worldwide with 25 throughout the U.S. Its Westbury chapter is located in the former home of Community Reform Temple, which resided there from 1975 until its consolidation with Temple Or Elohim in 2019.
Singh shared photos of the many community initiatives it shepherds, including blood drives and getting medical supplies. “This is just a reminder that this is your home; you’re always welcome there,” he said.
“Our mission’s ideology is that we are an all-embracing social, spiritual mission dedicated to establishing and maintaining love, peace, equality, oneness and a world without war, without any prejudice, or discrimination,” he added. “Certainly, our mission promotes the recognition of one formless power, called God, in every individual. By such wisdom, materialistic, social and religious divisions are replaced by bridges of compassion, unity, and fellow feeling, inspiring the spirit of oneness.”
After his presentation, the Sant Nirankari Mission’s choir performed.
Cantor Katz concluded the service with all the spiritual leaders by leading the Threefold Benediction.
You can view an edited version of the service here: https://youtu.be/sOHaTYozM6M.
—Submitted by Temple Or Elohim