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Synagogues, churches to mark MLK Day
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Synagogues, churches to mark MLK Day

Finding ways to curb the rising tide of gun violence will be the focus of sermons by a local rabbi and Baptist minister delivered at each other’s house of worship.

Rabbi Laurence Malinger and the Rev. John Armstrong will speak during “crossover” sermons in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which will be marked by synagogues throughout the region with ecumenical services, special liturgy, and hands-on social action.

For the fifth year in a row, Malinger’s congregation, Temple Shalom of Aberdeen, and Armstrong’s New Light Baptist Church in Cliffwood Beach will share services and clergy.

On Friday night, Jan. 17, Armstrong will speak at the temple, and on Sunday morning, Jan. 19, the rabbi will address the church’s members.

The choirs of both institutions will perform at each service, and a new version of “Chatzi Kaddish,” composed by Ed Goldfarb and commissioned by Temple Shalom’s cantor, Debi Zeiontz, will have its world premiere. Goldfarb is a California-based arranger, orchestrator, composer, and music director with numerous movie and television credits.

“It was a shooting that claimed the life of Dr. King 45 years ago, and as incidents at Newtown and Aurora show, the situation has gotten worse, not better,” said Malinger in a phone interview with NJJN.

Malinger said he and Armstrong have discussed the topic frequently and discovered that they both “view the world through the same moral lens. We both believe that there is a divine presence in every human being.”

Added Armstrong: “We all have a purpose on earth, and that purpose is to empower and enrich each other, not to destroy each other. The perpetrators of gun violence have misread what their purpose is supposed to be.”

Zeiontz said that, in addition to the new piece, the Temple Shalom Choir, under the direction of Pam Momyer, will sing “Halleluyah” by Jewish rock musician Rick Recht, and a medley of “Mi Chamocha/We Shall Overcome.”

Jack Blanton, minister of music and choir director at the New Light Baptist Church, said his group plans to offer renditions of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “Every Praise,” and “My God Is Awesome.”

Blanton praised the crossover service as an opportunity to “bring two different communities together at an event where people are able to hold hands without any racial tension, sing songs together in one voice, and look each other in the eyes, smile, and rejoice.

“We celebrate Dr. King for breaking racial barriers, but all the praise, honor, and glory belongs to God for all that He has done.”

The King legacy will be a focal point for other area synagogues, as well. Temple Rodeph Torah in Marlboro will commemorate the date with a Day of Service.

“We will be painting the social hall of the Lion of Judah Faith Center, a church that serves inner-city families in Trenton,” said Rabbi Donald Weber. “We have partnered with the church for years, providing coats, hats, scarves, and gloves for their members and Christmas presents for their children; now we have the opportunity to do hands-on service.”

Weber said the project is open to the whole community and that those wishing to participate should call 732-308-0055.

Rabbi Edward M. Friedman of Freehold Jewish Center said his congregants plan to participate in the Freehold Interfaith Clergy’s Martin Luther King, Jr. service. This year, the event is being hosted by the Freehold Bethel AME Church, and the service is being coordinated by the church’s Rev. Ronald Sparks. For details, call 732-462-0826.

At Congregation Kol Am of Freehold, King’s legacy will be observed at Shabbat services on Friday, Jan. 17, at 8 p.m.

Rabbi Brooks Sussman said, “In this 45th anniversary year of his death, the congregation will acknowledge his contribution to the nation, along with that of Robert and John Kennedy, whose anniversaries are in their 45th and 50th years. Statements by and about them, including significant portions of their speeches and messages, will serve as the English liturgy accompanying the traditional Hebrew service. Post-bar and -bat mitzva students will participate as the voices of future generations influenced by these men.” For information, call 732-792-8000.

John E. Harmon, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, will keynote Congregation Torat El’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ninth annual Interfaith Tribute & Dessert Reception on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 7:30 p.m.

The event is open to the Oakhurst congregation’s members and “old and new friends of various faiths, races, and ethnic backgrounds from communities throughout Monmouth County and around the state,” said Maddy Cohen, marketing and PR chair. Call 732-531-4410 for further information.

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