Township’s Faith Traditions Join In ‘Solidarity And Brotherhood Prayer’
Representatives of a handful of faith traditions in the township showed their support for one another March 11 in a “Solidarity and Brotherhood Prayer” held at Temple Beth El on Hamilton Street.
The idea of leaders at Masjid-e-Ali Mosque, the event was held during the synagogue’s Shabbat Zachor, or “Sabbath of Remembering,” an observance held yearly before the Purim holiday.
Alex Kharazi, president of the Franklin Township Interfaith Coalition and a founder of the mosque, said the idea to have the event came about after recent anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents, and because “we felt it would be good if we get together and have this prayer of solidarity and brotherhood.”
He said it was determined to hold the event in the mosque or in a Jewish temple, and, since there have been a number of prior related events at the mosque, the decision was made to hold it in Temple Beth El.
Kharazi said he spoke to the temple’s Rabbi, Eli Garfinkel, who then brought it to Mark Hilton, the temple president, who gave the final go-ahead.
Garfinkel noted the appropriateness of having such a gathering at this time, since Purim is the celebration of the defeat of a plot to exterminate the Jews living in Persia, a plot hatched by “the wicked Haman … a descendant of Amalek. Amalek is the arch enemy of Jews throughout history.”
“Amalek was known in the Bible for attacking the sick and the weak from the rear,” he said. “They were the world’s first known terrorists, people who fight without honor and not out of political ambition, but purely out of hatred.”
“Today it means not only those who act against the Jewish people, but those who commit acts of hatred and bigotry against any people,” he said. “Like a fungus or an infection, amalek … rears its ugly head when we as humans allow it to grow. We allow it to grow when we permit hatred and bigotry to go unchecked and unchallenged. The Nazis, may their bones rot, were prime examples of what happens when we don’t stop amalek in time. Amalek can rise from any group and attack anyone.”
Franklin, Garfinkel said, “is a special place because our religious groups actually get along quite well. If only we could export the respect that we have for each other to the rest of the planet. I am so touched that our community’s Muslims made the first move to have this event. It is comforting to know that you have our back, and rest assured that we have yours as well.”
“No Jew should ever shrug his shoulders in apathy when he hears of violence or bigotry against Muslims,” Garfinkel said. “We should always remember that one who harms Muslims, or any other minority for that matter, certainly has the Jews on his list as well.”
Kharazi pointed out the many recent examples of how Jews and Muslims have come together after attacks on members of their respective faiths across the country, from Muslims helping to rebuild a desecrated Jewish cemetery, to Jews donating money to help rebuild a burned-out mosque.
“Our response to hate and discrimination has been love and brotherhood and sisterhood,” he said. “We are vigilant and not indifferent to the enormous hateful attacks against our communities. History is full of examples of how Jewish and Muslim communities have come together, especially in times of difficulty, to help each other.”
“Gatherings like this is a testament that we belong to each other,” Kharazi said. “Let us pray that our friendship becomes stronger each day.”
Mayor Phil Kramer noted that there are more than 70 houses of worship in the township.
“That’s something to be proud of,” he said, “it is also a challenge.”
“All of the religions represented here at one time have had members of their religion fighting members of the other religions on the basis of religion, and that’s sad,” Kramer said. “Here in this town, we have chosen to get along. I’m as comfortable in a mosque as I am in a synagogue, as I am in a church, and we need to spread that throughout the world. If only we could spread it to the Middle East.”
“My hope is that when we get through this, and if we stick together we will get through this, that we don’t forget that this common problem brings us tighter together,” he said. “I pray that we don’t lose that once we’ve gotten through this because we are stronger now, we are better now, we are friends now, and I hope that continues.”
Masjid-e-Ali’s Imam, Rizwan Rizvi, said that although the events that spurred the gathering are evil, “look at the positivity in all of it, which is bringing us together.”
Rizvi noted that there are many verses in the Muslim Quran which “highlight the importance of the children of Israel and their right over the land,” and said those verses are “still being looked at from that perspective, because these verses of the Quran will remain until the day of judgment.”
“We find that our communities, when we’re facing such challenges in times of hatred and bigotry, the only thing we can do to drive out this hatred is love,” he said. “Good and evil are not equal. The only way to drive out the evil is with the best of your intentions.”
Rizvi said that for that to happen, people must internalize what they hear.
“Things that are heard with the ears must come down to the heart and settle into our heart before they can be exported out,” he said. “A lot of times we just hear things, and without transferring it down to our heart, we just move on to the second thing or the third thing or the next priority that is on our list.”
Former Mayor and state Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula said that people of different faiths need to understand each other.
“Ultimately, there is only one god, and what binds us together is the spirituality,” he said. “We all have that human spirit, it doesn’t matter what religious book you follow. It doesn’t matter what color you are, after the top layer of the skin, we’re all red.”
“Languages can be learned, cultures can be adopted,” Chivukula said. “There is so much insensitivity and so much ignorance that we should not be building walls, we should be building bridges.”
Also at the event were representatives from St. Matthias Catholic Church and the New Jersey Buddhist Vihara.
Board of Education and Interfaith Council member Ardaman Singh, a Sikh, said in an email that the “peace, calm, and serenity of the place of worship brought happy tears to my eyes.”
“”This is where I want to be; amongst people of different faiths smiling and supporting each other,” she wrote. “This was my moment of heaven and happiness. I felt blessed being a part of today’s event and wish we can have more like these and I can be there and experience the presence of the One God, who is known as different names, amongst us today.”
Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 The Franklin Reporter & Advocate