ROCKAWAY,NJ- “Peace be upon you all,” was the greeting bestowed by host Iman Adel Barhoma on the large crowd gathered at the Islamic Center of Morris County on Feb. 22 to participate in the third of a series of five programs sponsored by the Randolph Interfaith Council.
Titled, “Our Father Abraham”, this session featured a panel of local clergy including Father James Platania, Faculty, Immaculate Conception Seminary, South Orange, Rabbi Menashe East of the Mt. Freedom Jewish Center, Randolph, and Iman W. Deen Shareef, Iman of the Masjid ud Deen, Irvington. Also present was Council founding member (along with East) Father Dan Murphy of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, Randolph.
As each a panelist spoke, the over-arching question “How does Abraham’s life and vision speak to us today?” was the focus.
Rabbi East began the panel discussion, calling Abraham the “Father of Nations” who lived a life of vision, faith and action. He noted that Abraham, known for his generous hospitality to all, even challenged God, advocating to “save the lives of strangers” in the case of the Genesis narrative of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Father Platania continued the theme, noting that two great prayers in the Catholic liturgy, the Magnificat and the Benedictus refer directly to Father Abraham. For Christians, Platania observed, the Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ tracing his lineage as son of David and son of Abraham.
Iman W. Deen Shareef observed that Abraham lived a life of “service and sacrifice” and that Abraham is the “epitome for standing for belief in God and truth—universal values.” As such, Shareef pointed out that God identifies Abraham as an “ummah”-- a community.
The universality of Abraham’s life and legacy was a common thread through the ninety-minute program. W. Deen Shareef concluded with the prayer that “all Jews, Christians and Muslims will be examples of the universals that are the children of Abraham.”
Rabbi East, as well, emphasized that this gathering was an important step in bringing understanding and love to our faith communities, and by coming together we can bring “hope and change to our world.”
Father Dan Murphy, declaring the evening “informative and inspiring”, opened the room to questions. Many attendees posed questions of each panelist ranging from asking speakers to elaborate on the connections and similarities of the three faiths to calling on the three communities to follow up with specific action plans to continue the positive interactions of this evening.
Calling his first experience in a mosque “deeply moving”, Jonathan Ramsfelder of Morristown and member of the Mt. Freedom Jewish Center observed, “At a time when Muslim Americans are justifiably feeling marginalized and almost daily media reports of openly anti-Semitic acts have become a new reality, I took comfort in being reminded that we are all God’s children.”
The fourth program in this series is a screening of the film “Three Faiths, One Land” on May 11th at 7:30 pm—location to be announced. For further information, contact David at the synagogue, 973-895-2100 or office @mtfc.org