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Children’s quilt shows ties that bind area faiths
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Children’s quilt shows ties that bind area faiths

Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children gather around the interfaith quilt for which they designed squares. With them are, from left, rear, Fatima Jaffari, the Rev. Myrna Bethke, Toby Shylit Mack, Rep. Rush Holt, Rabbi Aaron Schonbrun, and Imam Mehdi.
Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children gather around the interfaith quilt for which they designed squares. With them are, from left, rear, Fatima Jaffari, the Rev. Myrna Bethke, Toby Shylit Mack, Rep. Rush Holt, Rabbi Aaron Schonbrun, and Imam Mehdi.

Religious leaders and children joined together Nov. 14 at Congregation Torat El in Oakhurst to celebrate a year-long interfaith project.

The event commemorated the completion of the Three Faiths Quilt project, initiated last year by the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County in partnership with 14 Jewish, Christian, and Muslim houses of worship.

Children from the congregations’ religious schools designed quilt squares around the theme of charity; the squares were sewn together by Judy Levine, education director at the Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls.

The nine-by-seven-foot quilt was on display during the event attended by children from all the different faith communities and their families. Representing the Jewish community was Torat El’s Rabbi Aaron Schonbrun.

Marking the completion of the quilt, said the rabbi, “was a wonderful celebration and culmination of tolerance and peace and diversity and efforts to do acts of tzedaka to bring more peace into the world.” The youngsters who took part, he said, “could serve as a model for all of society. The world could be a holier and healthier place if, like these kids, we could all learn to work together to bring acts of caring and righteousness to the world.”

And, the rabbi added, it is an “incredible quilt — not just because of what it represents.”

The Rev. Myrna Bethke of the United Methodist Church in Red Bank and Imam Mehdi of the Islamic Center of Freehold also joined in the celebration.

Also in attendance was Rep. Rush Holt (D-Dist. 12), who two years ago kicked off a series of interfaith dialogues among the three religious communities in Monmouth, Middlesex, and Mercer counties.

“We used the universal theme of charity — in Judaism, tzedaka, practicing righteous acts — to help implement our joint programs,” said CRC chair Toby Shylit Mack.

The quilt project, which engaged hundreds of children, Shylit Mack said, “is a testament to the innocence and creative beauty that lies within each child’s heart. But more importantly, the theme of charity also defines the children’s humanity and creates future global citizens.”

Shylit Mack designed the quilt’s center logo, containing the official name of the interfaith project “Partnership for Acceptance Cooperation and Trust,” its initials, PACT, formed from symbols of the three faiths.

“Charity is something all faiths believe in and put into practice on a regular basis,” said Fatima Jaffari, the Muslim liaison for the quilt project. “We had a great time working on it and the quality of the work of the kids was amazing. They were really able to show their creativity and what charity means to them in their personal life and what faith means to them.”

The quilt is being sent to Trenton for display in the Statehouse and on to other significant sites, including possibly the Capitol in Washington, DC.

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