LIVINGSTON, NJ — In response to the latest tragedy in New Zealand and in support of all those affected by it, the Muslim Community of Livingston hosted a service on Saturday evening entitled “Community Healing Together – An Interfaith Community Gathering to Remember Forgiveness, Prayer, Gratitude.”
With the support of members from the Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion (LCDI) as well as the Livingston Interfaith Clergy Association and other local dignitaries, the Islamic Center of Livingston invited the community to join together in prayer.
“Livingston’s heart goes out to all those who are victims of senseless violence and hate, and we stand strong with our brothers and sisters in New Zealand,” said Livingston Mayor Al Anthony. “Here in our town, we relentlessly promote diversity, inclusion and love, but we understand there is still hate in the world.
"Although individually shaken by these events, we stand strong together and know if there is suffering anywhere in the world we all suffer. We hope our interfaith community gathering will help people heal and only continue to strengthen the bonds that unite us all regardless of religion, race, color, sexuality or any of our differences.”
Billy Fine, LCDI co-chair, said that although Saturday’s crowd was spread across many faiths, all in attendance stood “in solidarity with the Livingston Muslim community and with one another.”
“For many, Livingston has a preconceived view of what our diversity looks like,” said Fine. “By hosting this service and discussion, we shattered that notion by recognizing the 150 or so people in attendance.”
Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz of Temple B’nai Abraham explained that during the prayer service on Saturday, a couple of Muslim speakers shared their tradition that “to destroy one life is to destroy the world.” She stated that “this is also a Jewish teaching,” and that the community “shares their pain and pray that our actions to connect, learn and support one another bring healing.”
“For Temple B'nai Abraham and members of the Jewish community, we remember the pain we felt after the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh this past October,” said Dantowitz, a member of the Livingston Interfaith Clergy Association. “We look forward to building relationships with the Muslim community.
Also among the speakers for the evening were Livingston Board of Education member George Shen and Councilman Michael Vieira, who proclaimed that the Livingston community “stands with the rest of the world against hatred.”
“As we look back at the progress of acceptance over the last several years, we must acknowledge there is still much work to be done,” said Vieira. “We are fortunate to live in a place where no matter our race, our nationality or our religion we come together and live as one community—a community that respects one another.
“Tonight we take steps into furthering that goal of peace and prosperity…Livingston shares in the sorrows and tragedies which have taken place, and as a community we will get through it together. We must not let hate and those who spread it win.”
As Fine recognized the mayor and LCDI council liaison Ed Meinhardt for being an integral part of the planning despite not being able to attend the event, he added that it sends a powerful message that the township continues to allow the LCDI the opportunity to host various events throughout the year because it shows the township is “just as supportive in our citizens’ times of need like this moment.”
“While we experienced difficulty with the time of our evening conflicting with the Jewish Sabbath, we look forward to many more chances to bring the religious groups in town together for further dialogue—hopefully under better circumstances,” said Fine, who thanked the Interfaith Clergy Association, the Livingston Township Council, the Livingston Board of Education and all of the evening’s speakers for “coming together to make such a historic evening in our community possible.”
Organizers also thanked the Livingston Police Department for providing security “to ensure community safety and to put the minds of all in attendance at ease during this trying time in the world.”
On behalf of the township, Anthony extended his “sincere gratitude” to community member Saba Khan; the Clergy Association, including Dantowitz and Pastor Dan Martian; his fellow council members; and LDCI co-chairs Fine and Keith Hines for all working hand in hand to put this program together.
“This is how we build the bridge to a brighter and more diverse future in Livingston,” Fine said in conclusion.
Below is a video of Saturday night’s program in its entirety.