Interfaith coalition offers 9/11 prayers for Newark commuters
Rabbi, imam, and bishop lead healing ritual
An imam, a rabbi, and an Episcopal bishop joined in morning prayers for peace in front of Newark Penn Station on Sept. 11 on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Standing in front of a sign reading “Interfaith Prayers for Peace, Shalom, Salaam,” the three Essex County clergymen interspersed prayer and social reflection.
As commuters raced for their morning trains, the Right Reverend Mark Beckwith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, led off the sidewalk service.
“On a Tuesday 11 years ago so many people were killed and we are here to memorialize that event, to offer witness for peace, and to offer support and prayer to those who are journeying today,” said Beckwith.
Beckwith, Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz of Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, and Imam W. Deen Shareef of Masjid Waarith ud Deen in Irvington are among the founders of the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace. Founded in 2008 to reduce street violence among Newark gangs, the coalition also encourages interfaith dialogue and cooperation.
During the rush hour ceremony, the clergy handed out small cards featuring prayers for peace in multiple languages.
“May nation not lift up sword against nation and study war no more,” Gewirtz said, quoting Isaiah. “May God bring peace to us and to all earthly peoples.”
Speaking with a reporter, Gewirtz said the 11 years since the attacks have made a difference in intergroup relations.
“I don’t think Jews and Muslims knew much about one another before 9/11,” said Gewirtz. “Hopefully, faith groups are beginning to visit with one another, getting to know each other, and to know that we are not about stereotypes. We are of religious traditions that really strive together for peace. It is easier to have a Jewish-Muslim dialogue for those who are making the effort. But there are not nearly enough people making the effort.”
Shareef, who is also a senior adviser to Newark Mayor Cory Booker, said the attacks exacerbated misunderstandings about the Muslim community.
“On this day it is important to remember that people of all faith traditions lost their lives 11 years ago,” he said. “It is important for each one of us to recognize and send our sympathies to each one of the families who lost someone in that tragic event. It is important to continue the healing process, to continue the process that we as people of faith are under an obligation to better understand each other and recognize each other and hopefully, to find a thread of love that will enable us to work together.”
The three clergymen will work together again when they lead a group of 33 Christians, Jews, and Muslims on a trip to Israel next month. The group will visit Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holy sites, as well as meet with Israelis and Palestinians with a range of perspectives on the region’s conflicts.
“We are going to Israel and what we hope will some day be the state of Palestine, and we want to go there in peace and meet people from all sides of the spectrum,” said Gewirtz. “We also want to meet with people like us who are dialoging and believe this is not a dream but a reality that could come true.”
Shareef will be making his first visit to the Holy Land.
“We want to mutually share in the history associated with our various faith traditions, so we can learn again about the rich history of Israel, Palestine, and Jerusalem,” said Shareef.
“What is so compelling about that part of the world is there is a lot of chaos there, but they make it work,” added Beckwith. “We have a lot to learn from them and a lot to teach. To bring three faith groups that are deeply rooted in Newark to a place with a lot of religious diversity is going to enhance our relationships one with another.”