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Sharing space and traditions

Cedar Crest’s interfaith community celebrates during the holiday season

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November 24th, 2015
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Holiday celebrations at Crest have already begun and will continue into the New Year. But what’s more than the quantity of celebrations (and there are a lot of them) is the quality.

The Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J., follows an interfaith model of sharing worship space and celebrations. For example, the Jewish community invited all to the Nov. 18 performance of Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and other secular songs by a local Jewish choir. And the entire community enjoyed an interfaith Thanksgiving service on Nov. 23.

Spirited diversity

“Our interfaith community and celebrations point to the spirited diversity that exists on our campus and in society,” Pastoral Ministries Manager Bert Moore says of the three prominent faith communities: Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish. A small orthodox community exists as well. 

Moore says the numerous opportunities for residents to participate in different faith traditions fosters understanding, appreciation, and tolerance of one another’s traditions and beliefs. And that makes the celebrations even more enjoyable.

“There is a tremendous sense of cooperation and respect,” Moore says. “The more they learn, the more they appreciate other traditions, and that helps in their understanding.”

Each faith community has its own worship time in the community’s on-site interfaith chapel. 

“To understand different traditions and to know why they do certain things has been enlightening to many members of our community,” Moore says. “The interfaith community has made Cedar Crest a stronger community overall.”

Celebrating faith and community

During the holidays, the chapel hosts various celebrations, such as musical presentations and services related to each faith community.

The Jewish community presents a Hanukkah show on Dec. 2, four days before the holiday week begins. Hanukkah runs from Sun., Dec. 6, to Mon., Dec. 14, this year. 

On Mon., Dec. 7, local community singers from Ridgewood will perform in the chapel. Moore says he does not know what songs they will sing this year, but last year, they sang excerpts from Handel’s Messiah. They did a wonderful job,” he says.

The Cedar Crest Chorale will present a concert in the chapel on Dec. 19. “A lot of our Catholic and Protestant members are in the Chorale,” Moore says. “That will be a packed house.” 

Additionally, the Cedar Crest Singers will perform various secular songs in the performing arts center.

Moore says the shared space promotes tolerance rather than test it. For example, he says, the Catholic and Protestant communities purchase poinsettias to decorate the chapel each year. “The Jewish community doesn’t mind having them in the chapel during their service. In that sense, there is a lot of cooperation,” Moore says.

“The interfaith council brings us together through programs, speakers, shows, and services. We can share those kinds of programs,” says Jewish Council membership chairperson Blanch Blitzer.  “That’s what it’s all about—sharing.”

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