MONTVILLE, NJ – The cold didn’t deter Montville Township residents from participating in OneMontville’s second annual Martin Luther King Day of Respect and Community Service as families and individuals made donations to the Montville Kiwanis food pantry, walked on Changebridge Road, visited places of worship and learned about various beliefs, and participated in service projects at each.

OneMontville is a group which desires to create and promote a climate of acceptance, inclusion and kindness to embrace and be enriched by the diversity of Montville Township, according to the group’s literature.

The day started at the Community Park, where participants gathered and made their food item donations. The group then walked from the park to Montville Reformed Church where they enjoyed french toast and pancakes donated by various local restaurants, while OneMontville President Shari Schwartz explained about the various programs OneMontville has embarked upon lately.

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“We have partnered with a student group focusing on [ending] cyber bullying, formed a response team for incidents of hate, screened the film ‘Wonder,’ and on May 18 we’ll celebrate our third annual GreenIn Day,” she said.

At the church, participants could ring the church bell, and decorate Valentines Day cards for a memory care facility in town which Reformed Church pastor Tom Henion said church members visit monthly. Participants in the OneMontville event could also write inspirational messages on green rocks. The rocks were painted green because that is the color for the Montville Township High School sports teams, and after the messages are inscribed, they are left around town for residents to read, enjoy and pass along.

Members of the Reformed Church, the Montville United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit and Good Shepherd Episcopal Church were also at the church as representatives of the Protestant religion.

At St. Pius X Catholic Church, participants were able to make bookmarks, which were donated to Chelsea Senior Living facility on Changebridge Road, and learn about the history of the church.

At Pine Brook Jewish Center, visitors could color puzzles to be given to the children at Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown. Kosher food was served, and Rabbi Mark Finkel gave tours of the synagogue. He explained that the center was the result of a merger in 1982 with the Lake Hiawatha Jewish Center, and since that synagogue had a needlepoint club, the various needlepoint artwork hanging on the walls at the PBJC are from the Lake Hiawatha center.

There are wetlands beside the building, and at the Jewish new year it is customary to “cast away” sins by symbolically tossing bread into a moving body of water.

“The wetlands are a moving body of water – very slowly – but they move,” Finkel joked, “so we toss the bread and crumbs there.”

Finkel explained about the many symbols of Judaism, including the 613 commandments.

“But I won’t list them now,” he said with a smile.

He showed visitors the eight torahs, or prayer scrolls, in use by the congregants, and the scroll they were loaned from a synagogue in Prague, where Nazis had piled many Jewish religious artifacts when Hitler decided to make a Jewish museum after eradicating all Jewish people. This torah is not used because it has not been restored, Finkel said.

At the Jam-E-Masjid Islamic Center, visitors could make bookmarks to accompany books that were donated to Paterson Hospital, according to Schwartz. Halal food could be enjoyed as well.

Member Gul Khan gave visitors tours and explained how the motifs on the carpet helped those who are praying to orient themselves towards Mecca for the five prayer sessions per day that Muslims participate in. He explained that men and women pray separately, and he showed the positions in which prayers are conducted.

“We take our shoes off when we enter the prayer area, because we believe that this is where God is present,” Khan explained. “This goes back to the time of Moses, because God told him to take his shoes off when he approached the burning bush – and when he left the mountain, he was so overwhelmed that he forgot his shoes altogether.”

The center has a Facebook Live feed for the month-long holiday of Ramadan, Khan said, when the Quran is read from start to finish, and members who wish to participate in the reading but may not be able can watch remotely. He said some members have even memorized the entire Quran – several of them young in age.

Khan explained some similarities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which was covered in this article: Mosque Open House.

Poonam Aier said she was glad to participate in OneMontville’s event so she and her two daughters could “experience being part of the community and support the OneMontville cause,” she told TAPinto Montville.

Sheri Dragone said she wanted to see what the event was all about and participate in some community projects.

“I feel very strongly about the philosophy of OneMontville and the philosophy of Martin Luther King, of nonviolence, respect for everyone of every religion and color of skin, regardless of their beliefs,” said participant Ina Roffman, “and I feel strongly about our community. I support our places of worship and I wanted to find out what they believe in.”

OneMontville would like to thank the Montville Township Police Department for aiding in safety for the walk, to those who donated to the food pantry, and to those restaurants who made donations of food for the day: Jerusalem Restaurant, Montville Diner, Red Barn Restaurant, Kebab Paradise, Harrigan’s Restaurant, Columbia Inn, Poor Henry’s Restaurant, Shahi Kebab Restaurant and Junior’s Restaurant.

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