RANDOLPH, NJ- Round tables were set up. Cake and coffee were nicely offered thirty minutes before the start of the evening’s program. All part of the plan, explained Father Dan Murphy of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Randolph. Mingling, conversation and friendship are central to the goals of the Randolph Interfaith Council’s programming, he explained, and the screening of the film, “Three Faiths/One Land” broadcast that from the very first screenshot.
On Thursday evening, May 11, St. Matthew's hosted the Council’s fourth session in this year’s series, "Exploring the Essentials of the Three Abrahamic Faiths." For the ensuing Q&A period, Council co-founders Father Dan Murphy and Rabbi Menashe East were joined by Bishop Mark Beckwith, Newark, Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz, Short Hills, and Iman W. Deen Shareef, Irvington, three of the faith representatives featured in the film.
The 2012 film by E. James Smith documents a week-long interfaith trip in October of that year, including clergy from the Newark area, sponsored by NICHP (The Newark Coalition of Hope and Peace). This dedicated group of travelers counted among them eleven Jews, eleven Christians and eleven Muslims. Their goals, according to the film? To work together to bring “reconciliation and peace to a troubled world”.
The film follows the group as they visit historic sites that are sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims throughout Israel and the West Bank. The travelers or “ambassadors” as they are called by Bishop Beckwith, report their awakening to the common human aspirations (and failings) that underpin the core tenets of each belief system.
While in Israel, the group visited the Western Wall, St. George’s Cathedral, the Sea of Galilee to the Dome of the Rock, from Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum to Palestinian Aida refugee camp. Especially valuable were the nightly two-hour reflection sessions, where participants had opportunities to share daily observations and questions and to sing together. “The more we are ourselves, even if we have opposite truths, the more we find connection, “observed Rabbi Gewirtz.
During the evening’s Q&A period, each of the clergy detailed the deep sense of mutual understanding and optimism that was the direct result of the shared journey. Iman W. Deen Shareef encouraged the many community members present to “be hopeful… to believe that there will be a better day”. Rabbi East agreed, noting that “by sharing and trusting, love can grow.” Those in the audience voiced their appreciation of the film as did their neighbors, many of them exchanging business cards and cell numbers.
Five years after the 2012 trip, the clergy who led the group note that they their commitment to each other as representatives of different faith communities and the commitment to peace, connection and understanding, continues. However, they were disappointed that were not able to fulfill entirely their original goals to key youth initiatives in the city of Newark.
Yet, the three clergy will have an even bigger audience to hear their message of hope; Bishop Beckwith, Iman W. Deen Shareef and Rabbi Gewirtz are now featured on a NJTV (Channel 11) talk show called, “Faith Matters”, and the first broadcast aired on May 24 at 8:30 pm.
The next Randolph Interfaith Council event, an Interfaith Holocaust Memorial, will be held on Tuesday, June 6 at 7 pm at the Mt. Freedom Jewish Center, Randolph. All programs are free and open to the public. Contact any of the clergy listed or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.