The singing of Israel’s national anthem will return to an interfaith Holocaust commemoration in Edison following a two-year absence.
The decision to include “Hatikva” was made by committee members representing the program organizers, the Metuchen-Edison Area Interfaith Clergy Association, and the Jewish Community Center of Middlesex County.
The song will be sung at the end of the April 8 program, which will allow Muslim imams, who had remained seated during the singing in previous programs, to leave the stage beforehand and join the group in the reception.
“We thought it was appropriate to put ‘Hatikva’ back in,” said Jennine Shpigel, JCC director of Jewish and family programming. She sat on the committee along with the Rev. James Thomas of the First Presbyterian Church of Iselin and Cantor Jacqueline Shuchat-Marx of Temple Emanu-El in Edison.
Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Congregation Beth-El in Edison had urged organizers to restore the anthem, after initially insisting two years ago that it be removed. The rabbi told NJJN that seeing the imams remain seated during the singing of the anthem had upset some Jewish attendees.
In a persistent e-mail and Internet campaign, Rosenberg charged that omitting the anthem would be “giving in to the current atmosphere of anti-Semitism” in Europe and the Middle East.
Rosenberg, who attended a Feb. 19 meeting of the clergy association, said everyone was “extremely cordial” and there was no dissent about the inclusion of “Hatikva.”
“I think this is an important issue for Holocaust survivors, and if nothing else that needed to be made known,” said Rosenberg. “The discussion at the meeting was very positive and the fact that the imam was sensitive to the issue and made an accommodation was also important. But, the most important thing is the result.”
Imam Moustafa Zayed of the Muslim Center of New Jersey in Parlin said he was unaware, until contacted by NJJN, that there was an issue with his decision to remain seated during the singing of “Hatikva.”
“I was not aware that my sitting during ‘Hatikva’ made anyone uncomfortable,” said Zayed, who added that his absence last year was due to a scheduling conflict and that he was astonished to learn this year that some people believed it was because of the “Hatikva” issue.
He plans to attend this year’s program.
“I come to support my community,” he said. “I want to take politics out of my relationship with my neighbors.”