SOUTH RIVER – Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders from throughout New Jersey held a public discussion on the modern State of Israel.
“It’s Complicated: A Discussion of Israel, Christianity and Islam, and Building Bridges to Peace,” was sponsored on April 25 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen’s Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs as a follow-up to the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey’s recent interfaith journey to Israel.
The journey to Israel in January was attended by the Rev. Guy Selvester, Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Affairs Officer, Diocese of Metuchen. Selvester also organized and moderated the April 25 panel discussion at the diocese, according to information provided by the federation.
Selvester described the purpose of the journey to Israel: to increase awareness among local clergy, of all faiths, of the opportunities for peaceful coexistence and to dispel misconceptions that might exist about the relationship between the State of Israel and Palestine.
“The mission certainly broadened my horizons and gave me an increased appreciation for how complex the political and religious situation is in Israel,” he said to more than 100 Christian, Jewish and Muslim community members, according to the statement.
During their January visit, clergy members traveled to Jerusalem, Shilo, Rawabi, Tiberias, the Golan Heights, Nazareth, Umm el-Fahem and Tel Aviv. Along the way, they visited holy places and met with religious, cultural and secular groups that are working towards peace and coexistence in a land that is often troubled by political and religious strife, according to the statement.
In addition to Selvester, panel members at the April 25 discussion included Rabbi Marc Kline of Monmouth Reform Temple, Tinton Falls; M. Ali Chaudry, president of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge; the Rev. D. Scott Russell, chaplain at Canterbury House at Rutgers University; and Keith Krivitzky, CEO of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, which serves Monmouth and Middlesex counties. The Rev. James Checchio, bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, attended.
Members of the panel talked about what they thought about Israel before and after the January trip, what surprised them the most about the country, what their thoughts were on the possibility for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and their impressions on how the three Abrahamic religions co-exist within the small geographical area of the Old City of Jerusalem. Following the panel discussion, a question-and-answer session and constructive discussion with audience members took place.
“This was a wonderful opportunity to engage in honest discussion about Israel with members of the interfaith community who would otherwise not be exposed to some of the varied insights gained on the interfaith journey,” Dan Rozett, the Jewish Federation’s manager of Community and Israel Engagement, said in the statement.
Encouraged by his own experience in Israel, Selvester said, “I’d like people of all faiths who attended the April 25 event to see the need for a conversation, where before there wasn’t one, and to experience an opening of the mind, where perhaps there might have been closed-mindedness.”