From left to right: Rabbi Alvin Kass, East Midwood Jewish Center, Faruq Wadud, of the Baitul Jannah Zame Masjid and Muslim Community Center, Assembly Assistant Speaker Rhoda Jacobs and Father Michael Perry, Our Lady of Refuge Church.
“By whatever name you call God, or the higher power, we all have someone to whom we give thanks,” Father Michael Perry, the pastor at Our Lady of Refuge, emphasized in his opening remarks.
Sister Celia Deutsch, one of the event’s organizers, noted that “in a community that is very heavily immigrant,” the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service provided “an American way of coming together and being thankful.”
Rabbi Alvin Kass of the East Midwood Jewish Center echoed Deutsch’s sentiments, stressing that, “events like this really create a neighborhood and a community. New York is a big place.” He added that the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, which continues to grow each year, was initiated in response to a “deeply felt need to build bridges between people of different faiths.” He further noted that interfaith events of this nature “provide a foundation for solving problems when and if they arise.”
The event also gave the community a chance both to recognize and to contribute to the efforts of its local religious leaders, including the Our Lady of Refuge Food Pantry, spearheaded by Father Perry; food was collected during the service. This year, Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs honored Father Perry for his community work.
“This was an opportunity to acknowledge Father Perry’s 40 years of service,” Assemblywoman Jacobs emphasized. “He is a community institution and asset. In particular, Our Lady of Refuge Food Pantry helps those in need and that need continues to grow.”
Sister Celia noted that the event provides emotional support to address the growing needs of members of the Flatbush and Midwood communities. In this economic climate, she underscored, “there is a lot of worry,” but “people know how to be grateful for their families and for one another.”
Those present for the festivities had the opportunity to put their worries aside for a few hours, as they participated in songs, hymns and Thanksgiving prayers from the 10 different religious faiths represented – Hindu, Buddhist, Greek Orthodox, Protestant, Muslim, Native American, Catholic, Episcopal, Baha’i and Jewish.
“In the great spirit of coming together, this interfaith celebration affords us all an opportunity to stop and think of what we should be thankful for,” Assemblywoman Jacobs emphasized.