A religiously and ethnically diverse crowd of about 200 joined in song, prayer, readings, and a candlelighting ceremony by survivors and children and grandchildren of survivors during the annual interfaith Yom Hashoa program at the JCC of Middlesex County in Edison.
The program, cosponsored by the JCC and the Metuchen-Edison Area Clergy Association, was held April 8.
Pastor Mark McCreary of the Second Baptist Church of Metuchen thanked the organizers “for giving us a chance to do something we don’t normally do.”
“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share,” he said. “It’s really special to have the opportunity to understand what we don’t know and an opportunity to experience another culture. It’s been a blessing.”
Imam Moustafa Zayed of the Muslim Center of New Jersey in Parlin read a poem commemorating Holocaust victims.
At the ceremony’s conclusion, Hazzan Sheldon Levin of Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen chanted the El Malei Rahamim memorial prayer, and Rabbi Ari Saks of Congregation Beth Mordecai in Perth Amboy led Kaddish for the Six Million.
Zayed, the only Muslim cleric in attendance, was seated at the end of the last row with other clergy and community leaders; he stood with the other participants during the prayers but slipped out a door a few feet away, virtually unnoticed, when the event concluded with the singing of “Hatikva.”
When the organizing committee decided to reinstate the singing of “Hatikva” for this year’s program after a two-year absence, none of the clergy members objected, although Zayed said he would not stand during Israel’s national anthem and preferred to leave before it was sung.
Zayed’s decision angered one event organizer, Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Congregation Beth-El in Edison. Rosenberg and Zayed had hammered out an agreement to place “Hatikva” at the end of the program, allowing the Muslim clergy to leave before it was sung and avoid offending anyone by remaining seated. But Rosenberg, who was among the founders of the event 15 years ago, changed his mind and chose instead to speak at a Yom Hashoa program in Manalapan.
“It was fine,” JCC executive director Dorothy Rubinstein, the daughter of survivors, said of Zayed’s decision.
Calling the matter “history,” Saks said, “It’s time to move on.”