NJ: AT INTERFAITH SEDER, ONLY THE HERBS WERE BITTER
Jews, Muslims and Christians joined together Sunday in an interfaith Passover seder rarely attempted in North Jersey.
"Let us help one another overcome hardness of heart, opening minds to the challenges of faith," the crowd of about 120 people recited during an opening prayer at Congregation Beth Shalom in Pompton Lakes.
Joining the Conservative Jewish congregation were members of the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson, Christ Episcopal Church in Pompton Lakes and St. Luke's Episcopal Church in the Warren County community of Hope.
Jews and Christians have long held interfaith events. But a Jewish-Muslim seder is almost unheard of in North Jersey, where strong feelings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have led to frosty relations between some members of the two communities.
The jointly authored prayer service, while not papering over their differences, affirmed the congregations' common religious ancestry and condemned the spiraling violence in the Mideast.
"How is it that we, Muslims, Jews and Christians, have all allowed our fear, prejudice and hatred to destroy justice, compassion and love?" said Mohamed El Falali, outreach director at the Islamic Center.
Passover, which begins tonight at sundown, is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays, and commemorates the ancient Hebrews' flight from slavery in Egypt. Jews typically hold a seder, a special meal and worship service, that symbolically retells the story of Moses, Judaism's greatest prophet, who led the Hebrews out of bondage and declared "Let my people go" to the Egyptian Pharaoh.
But the Exodus saga also resonates with Muslims and Christians, who trace their religious roots to the Hebrew Bible. The leader of the mosque, for example, said Moses is mentioned more times in the Quran than Islam's founder, Muhammad.
"We all believe in the one God and his message," Imam Mohammad Qatanani, a native Palestinian, said in an interview. "The message of Moses is the same as the message of Muhammad."