The importance of building bridges between people of different faiths
By Donna Newman
The Village Times Herald and The Times of Middle Country April 4 covers “United we stand,” and the article by Rita J. Egan reporting on the interfaith gathering held March 28 at the Islamic Association of Long Island in Selden, were an important community service. The event itself was extraordinary.
Members of the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association presented a panel discussion highlighting the many similarities of the various belief systems it encompasses. Comments from the attendees focused on the necessity of doing more than just coming together in solidarity when terrorists target faith communities around the world. We need to come together often and work together to build bridges between our different faiths and realize that there is more that unites us than divides us.
There was a break in the proceedings on March 28 when the call to prayer was heard. Non-Muslims were invited to observe men and women in prayer. It was an extremely generous gesture to welcome outsiders into a very special and spiritual space.
After the panel discussion and a Q&A, the audience divided into small groups, bringing individuals of different faiths together to talk and get to know each other. My group included Christians, Jews, Unitarian Universalists and a Muslim who happily answered lots of questions — and asked a good number as well.
The evening struck a chord with many who experienced it, and I’m certain that plans began to form to expand the experience so more Long Islanders could benefit.
Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky and Cantor Marcey Wagner of Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook have announced two upcoming events that build on this idea of bringing people together.
The temple will hold its Day of Good Deeds, or Mitzvah Day, Sunday, May 5. Social Action Committee Chair Iris Schiff reached out to other faith groups to invite them to join in various community-minded activities, culminating in an afternoon cleanup of West Meadow Beach.
A breast cancer screening van from Stony Brook Medicine will offer state-of-the-art 3-D digital mammograms from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to females 40 and over who schedule an appointment. For more information, call 631-638-4135.
On Friday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. Sidlofsky will replicate an Invite Your Neighbor to Shabbat service that he originated at his previous congregation in Wilmington, North Carolina. Congregants are encouraged to bring non-Jewish neighbors and friends to a service, at which they may experience and learn about Jewish prayer, including a look at an open Torah scroll. The rabbi will be available during the social time after the service to answer questions.
The more we learn about each other’s faiths — their origins, practices and traditions — the more we will understand that we have shared values of peace, love and justice. We all want to be treated with dignity and respect, and we feel others should be as well.
The April 4 article quoted Building Bridges in Brookhaven member and former Ward Melville High School teacher Tom Lyon. As he so eloquently put it: “The most radical thing we can do is to introduce people to each other.”
Donna Newman is a freelance writer and former editor of The Village Times Herald.