RANDOLPH, NJ- Concerned that “the distance between people of faith was expanding,” the Randolph Interfaith Council was formed by Rabbi Menashe East of Mt. Freedom Jewish Center and Father Daniel Murphy of St. Matthew’s Church a number of years ago. This year the Council, joined by Imam Deen Shareef of the Islamic Center of Morris County is sponsoring a community five-part program series, “Exploring the Essentials of the Three Abrahamic Faiths”.
The first session of the series, “Our Holy Books” was held Nov. 3 at the Mt. Freedom Jewish Center and attended by many community members. This interactive evening program offered a unique opportunity to explore some of the core tenets of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
After offering traditional prayers of invocation, each speaker presented brief historical and topical introductions to the major sacred texts of their respective faiths. Rather than drawing straws to avoid the appearance of one faith getting “top billing,” the three leaders wisely chose to order the presentations chronologically by the faiths’ appearance in the world.
Following the introductions, each of the leaders painted a picture of how these sacred texts inform the way believers view the world and live within it. Rabbi East discussed the central place that Torah study plays in the life of any observant Jew since it provides the moral backbone upon which one’s spiritual life is built. Father Murphy described a rich prayer life that is anchored in scripture and which affords Christians an opportunity to commune with God and receive His love and direction. Imam Shareef detailed some of the day-to-day and lifelong obligations which the Koran imposes upon Muslims, not as punishments, but for their own growth and development.
All three leaders were earnest in their assertions that their sacred texts are invaluable tools that have been provided by G-d, either directly or through His messengers, and that they are living and vibrant documents that remain as relevant to today as ever before.
A vigorous Q&A session followed the formal presentations. The leaders honestly and graciously faced some difficult questions, notably about the limits on women’s participation within the official hierarchy of the faiths they represent. Each noted that some of the precepts under which they operate have challenged them to search deeply within themselves and within the collective history and wisdom of their faiths to understand these issues in a broader context.
According to Rabbi East, “Father Dan and I hoped then, when we started the Council, as we do today, that by learning with and from each other - we can dispel myths and deepen our understanding”.
The series continues on Jan. 17, 2017 at 7:30 pm for the second session, “The Place of Prayer” hosted by St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Randolph.