Virtual town hall a chance to engage with politician

Faith-based event an opportunity to learn about new assemblywoman’s background

When Assemblywoman Carol Murphy was young, she was shocked to learn her retired military father did not vote. He didn’t want to be responsible for putting any “knuckleheads in office,” Murphy recalled.

“When I became an assemblywoman, I wanted to be the kind of assemblywoman my dad would be honored to vote for,” she said. “I feel that I am. I give back. I enjoy helping people.”

This was one of many personal anecdotes Murphy shared during a town hall she recently hosted with Temple Sinai of Cinnaminson. The event, open to religious communities in Burlington County, was geared toward getting to know more about county and state resources, and also getting to know more about Murphy herself, including her legislative initiatives.

“My hope was that people would walk away feeling like they get to know her personally. And I think they did,” Rabbi Michael Perice said.

Perice, who took the helm at Temple Sinai last summer, started collaborating with Murphy shortly thereafter. Their strong working partnership – and steadfast friendship – is grounded in a shared desire to make the world a better place, starting, of course, at the local level.

“We both share this very strong passion and interest when it comes to public service and making our communities thrive, and I think we both keenly understood the potential in working together, essentially bringing together our very different roles to achieve this common goal,” Perice described.

“All that’s to say we are constantly reaching out and figuring different ways we can collaborate. This is really just one of many we hope to accomplish.”

Temple Sinai is part of the Triboro Clergy Association, which encompasses houses of worship in Cinnaminson, Palmyra and Riverton. Other association members who took part in the town hall included Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, Epworth United Methodist Church and Bethany Lutheran Church. First Baptist Church of Moorestown, which is not part of the association but does a lot of work with Temple Sinai, also participated.

“Generally speaking, the faith community is made up of people who care about what is happening in our communities and state,” Perice said. “They’re eager to learn more, but also to speak up about issues that are important to them. So a program like this felt very natural for members of our local faith communities.”

During the town hall, Murphy heard about initiatives from the participants, too. Epworth United Methodist Church Pastor Charlie Soper spoke on the Bread of Life Food Pantry housed at the Palmyra church, mentioning it would be great to continue getting the word out that the pantry is available to the triboro area.

“We’re answering the call. The clergy association is working for the community,” Soper said.

A broad range of topics were covered during the hour-long town hall.

Murphy was asked about improving the state computer system, which she agreed needs to be a priority. She is working on a bill to put together a task force on the state’s technology needs.

Another topic tackled was when Murphy was asked about small business support.

“This year’s budget has a lot for small-business owners, which I’m really excited to see,” Murphy noted. In addition, she also mentioned several small business grants that are available.

“I think we’re on the verge of opening up,” Murphy continued.

Perice also shared a question from a congregant: How do we stem the rising tide of hate in our community?

“That’s a great question,” Murphy said, explaining how she recently met with the Anti-Defamation League about how to curb the hatred and attacks. “I can tell you this. If we work as a community … We can help stop the hate.”

“We have to make sure people know this will not be tolerated,” Perice concurred.

“We have the power to make our voices heard and be vigilant and stand against the hate that is rising in this nation.”

Perice and Murphy hope to plan future town halls, possibly on a larger scale with other elected officials. They may continue to be for the faith community, or open to the public at large.

“We are very excited to host and to continue creating a space where people can learn and engage their elected representatives and neighbors,” Perice said. “I wouldn’t call it my vision, but let’s say it’s my hope that we can continue to build relationships and communities beyond our own walls.”