East Brunswick interfaith council condemns synagogue shooting in California

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EAST BRUNSWICK–In a joint effort to promote tolerance and unity, members of the East Brunswick Interfaith Clergy Council condemned the shooting at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue.

During the last day of Passover, an armed gunman opened fire, leaving one person dead and three people injured on April 27 at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue, located in the City of Poway, Calfornia.

Council Coordinator Hollie Cerame said that the East Brunswick Interfaith Clergy Council meets periodically with the goal of improving interfaith relations in the township.

Cerame said the council sent out a joint prepared statement condemning the recent shooting.

“We want to have a voice saying you know when things like this happen, we want to have a voice as a united clergy speaking out against this to show that people should be unified irregardless of their faith and come together and support each other especially in times of tragedies like these,” Cerame said.

According to the statement, the council mourns the loss of life and prays for the injured. Since a house of worship is a sanctuary and no one should have to worship in fear, the council encourages people to be more kind, just and peaceful.

Religious leaders from several houses of worship signed the joint statement which included: Rev. Jill Ellen Collict, pastor of Nativity Evangelical Lutheran Church; Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer of Temple B’Nai Shalom; the Reb. Mark Hanna of Saint Mary Coptic Orthodox Church; Muhammad Hashmi of Islamic Center of East Brunswick; the Rev. Karen Johnston of The Unitarian Society; Rabbi Shlomo Landau of Torah Links of Middlesex County; the Rev. Erica Munoz, senior pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church; the Rev. Kathryn Mustaro, interim head of staff at Trinity Presbyterian Church; Rabbi Jeff Pivo of the East Brunswick Jewish Center; Rabbi Efrayim Unterman of Young Israel of East Brunswick; the Rev. Thomas Walsh, pastor of Saint Bartholomew Catholic Church; and Pastor Thomas Wong of Point Community Church of East Brunswick.

In other efforts to unite the community, Cerame said the council has hosted an interfaith Thanksgiving service for the past 30 years.

Striving to assist the East Brunswick School District, Cerame said the council is also working with the superintendent’s office through the Human Relations Council to promote tolerance throughout the district’s schools.

“We want to join with the East Brunswick School District to help in improving how they deal with any incidents that might occur in the schools,” Cerame said. “We want to help hem any way we can to deal with interfaith relations in the school system. So, that would be like if there are bias incidents, it’s about educating the students further on how to get along with other people and learning about other people.”

Cerame said that the council also holds numerous coordinated events, such as a bookbag drive where the council packs backpacks for children in need.

During the holiday season, the council holds interfaith collections and collects food donations for the Aldersgate United Methodist Church’s food pantry, according to Cerame.

“Helping each other with whatever projects each house of worship is working on and being aware of events that are going on in the different houses of worships that [residents] might want to participate in … and just different events to try and get people to be together in different situations where they might not come together” is their goal, Cerame said.

Cerame said residents who are not affiliated with a house of worship can keep an eye out for events that various houses of worship put on, and they should attend those events in order to help bring people together.

“The goal of the council is for people to be tolerant of people of other faiths, to be understanding of people of other faiths and to live in harmony with people of other faiths,” Cerame said. “The best way to support [the council] is to practice tolerance every day and to teach that tolerance to other people around you. Talk to somebody of a different faith and tell them a little bit about how you practice and learn a little bit about them so that you both understand each other better and can live together better.”

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermedagroup.com.