The Haddonfield Council of Churches, in observance of the National Day of Prayer, embraced the Jewish community by including the Mourner’s Kaddish, read by Rabbi Jerome David.
Pastor Michael Feicht of The First Baptist Church of Haddonfield, on behalf of the Haddonfield Council of Churches, welcomed the visit by Rabbi David of Cherry Hill for breakfast on the National Day of Prayer, which was also Yom Hashoah, the international day of remembrance for the Holocaust and mourning for genocide on Thursday, May 5.
Following the singing of all four stanzas of “America the Beautiful” led by Marlea Gruver on piano, the assembly enjoyed breakfast for the National Day of Prayer, declared by President Obama, Gov. Christie and Haddonfield Mayor Jeff Kasko. The Urban Promise Children’s Choir, directed by Joel Krott sang gospel songs.
Feicht led off the program by describing his pilgrimage to Jerusalem with the Christian Century Foundation, which brought him to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Israel. Feicht described the pathway leading into the memorial, which is lined with carob trees, and why carob trees are a symbol of justice.
“The people who designed Yad Vashem said those trees will be dedicated in memory of gentiles who gave their life to save someone from the tragedy of the Holocaust,” he said.
Dr. Ilise Feitshans, Executive Director of the Work Health and Survival Project in Europe and the United States of America and haddonfield Resident for 20 years introduced Rabbi Jerome David of Cherry Hill.
“It is a particular joy to come to Haddonfield after years in Europe. Yom Hashoah is a special day because we remember the righteous souls who risked their own lives in order to be sure that people had a chance to escape the genocide,” Feitshans said.
Feitshans explained that remembering the tragedies of Yom Hashoah is consistent with the theme of the invited speaker.
“Genocide is very much linked to issues of refugee health and migration,” she said.
Feitshans pointed out that the Holocaust created the modern paradigm of people seeking shelter from persecution. Many refugees from the genocide became wonderful strong Americans. Offering the group to pass around her personal copy of the catalog for the Holocaust Memorial in Israel, Yad Vashem, Feitshans noted that the architecture of memory for the museum and learning center was designed as a cut on the land that can heal only slowly.
“We in America begin healing on this national Day of Prayer by bringing together for the first time prayers for our nation and prayers in remembrance of the righteous souls who tried to stop genocide. Hopefully, this will be the first of many more unified opportunities where the Jewish Community can participate in religious events in Haddonfield,” Feitshans said.
“It is impossible to connect with (the millions of lives who) were lost,” said David of Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill.
Therefore he chose to honor the memory of one person, Helen, a survivor of the genocide who came to South Jersey and made her life with her family.
“Helen always had a smile,” David said. “And this is the inspiring moment,” quoting her words when asked why she always smiled, David continued, “I chose to remember the kindness. In the midst of all of this there were kindnesses that I experienced, random acts of kindness, which is probably why I am alive.”
Rabbi David underscored the importance of moving forward as a lesson of Yom Hashoah.
“If it is only to talk about what was, then we are missing the point,” he said.
Describing the continuum of bullying to scapegoating to acts of prejudice and hate that leads to genocide, David cited the work of the Anti Defamation League and said, “it starts very small,” and he concluded, “Let the lesson be we must tell the story, and not words of hate.”
David then led the assembly in the Jewish Kaddish prayer for mourners. He explained that the Kaddish prayer, which the group read collectively, was written in Arameic, the language that was spoken by Jesus, and that the translation praises God even in our moments of despair and tragedy.
Rev. Dr. Brenda Halliburton-Williams, Director Christian Ministries to Immigrants, ABC-USA offered the statistics regarding the immigrant population in the USA, noting that 70 percent are made to live in camps for well over 10 years.
“What it must be like to flee persecution and then to live in a camp until such time that you can be given the authorization the clearance to flee to a safe haven and then when you find the safe haven you find another level of persecution. What it must be like.”
Halliburton-Williams read the scripture Matthew 25 reminding all people to “take your inheritance” of the earth, “for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I as a stranger and you invited me in.”
Halliburton-Williams then urged the assembly to resettle people from her list of refugees in South Jersey and to welcome them in an environment that prepared “our hearts and our minds for the work that must be done to receive the challenge” of giving homes to refugees in Haddonfield and to sponsor an individual or a family.
A sign up sheet was offered as Rev. Bill Getman in the final prayer stated, “it is time to move beyond words.”