With music, food, and plenty of good will, Christians and Muslims joined Jews in the sukka Oct. 6 at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick.
The event, which was cosponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, took place on the fifth night of Sukkot.
It was the first step in a planned three-part program in conjunction with area churches and the Islamic Society of Central New Jersey in Monmouth Junction. The goal is to encourage dialogue among the three Abrahamic faiths.
The Sukkot gathering built on a May event sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (D-Dist. 12) in which participants traveled from Temple B’nai Shalom in East Brunswick to St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in East Brunswick to the Islamic Society mosque.
“We want to understand and respect each other in our own little corner of the world,” said B’nai Tikvah president Ruth Anne Koenick. She addressed the about 80 participants in the synagogue sanctuary before they moved to the sukka. “We want to get to get to know each other and treat each other with human dignity.”
Deacon Joe Livingston of St. Bart’s later told NJJN that the program was the first of other shared holiday celebrations.
“I am part of a group, with Ruth Anne, that doesn’t want this to stop,” he said.
“We must understand our shared traditions,” said Morad Abou Sabe, former president of the Islamic Society. “This happens to be in a Jewish synagogue, and we look forward to sharing our traditions with others in future programs.”
In the sukka, Rabbi Robert Wolkoff displayed the lulav and etrog, the branches and fruit central to the Sukkot ritual.
During the sukka meal of kugel, dessert, and fruit, congregation members danced outside to the music of Cantor Bruce Rockman and the Sons of Tikvah band.
“We need to stop the fighting and be more understanding of other religions and people,” said Sharon Cody, a Seventh Day Adventist from North Brunswick. “Where is the love in people’s hearts?”