2018-12-05 / Voice at the Shore

Interfaith Thanksgiving service stresses importance of gratitude

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice Shore Editor

From left: Rev. Collins Days of Atlantic City’s Second Baptist Church, Rabbi Jonathan Kremer of Shirat Hayam in Ventnor, Rev. Jon Thomas of Atlantic City’s Santa Monica Parish, Father Doug Eberly of Epiphany Episcopal in Ventnor, and Rabbi Gordon Geller of Shirat Hayam were among the many clergy members participating in the Absecon Island Consortium’s Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. From left: Rev. Collins Days of Atlantic City’s Second Baptist Church, Rabbi Jonathan Kremer of Shirat Hayam in Ventnor, Rev. Jon Thomas of Atlantic City’s Santa Monica Parish, Father Doug Eberly of Epiphany Episcopal in Ventnor, and Rabbi Gordon Geller of Shirat Hayam were among the many clergy members participating in the Absecon Island Consortium’s Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. On November 19, the spirit of Thanksgiving came to life for more than 50 community members at the Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving service at the Asbury United Methodist Church. The service is an almost 30-year tradition for the Absecon Island Ministerium, an ecumenical group of Atlantic City-area clergy representing multiple faiths, said Rabbi Jonathan Kremer of Shirat Hayam, who currently heads the organization.

Rabbi Kremer and Rabbi Gordon Geller of Shirat Hayam joined spiritual leaders of other faiths for the service, which included inspirational speeches, music, as well as an “Evening Message” delivered by Rev. Vicky Ney of Margate Community Church.

Ney lauded the Jewish tradition of saying a hundred blessings a day, which dates back to the Talmud. This tradition of thanking G-d, she said, is “a way to acknowledge G-d’s presence in the midst of your day.” According to Ney, people who take their blessings for granted look around for what else they can amass, cultivating an “attitude of greed rather than an attitude of gratitude.” And while Thanksgiving is a holiday dedicated to gratitude, “we must not forget to be grateful the other 364 days of the year.”


Rev. Latasha Milton, spiritual leader of Asbury Methodist Church in Atlantic City, welcomed everyone to the Absecon Island Consortium’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, which was held at her church on November 19. Rev. Latasha Milton, spiritual leader of Asbury Methodist Church in Atlantic City, welcomed everyone to the Absecon Island Consortium’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, which was held at her church on November 19. The service also featured inspirational performances by choir members from Beth El, Shirat Hayam, and the St. James and Margate Community Churches. A particularly moving moment came when Cantor Ralph Goren of Beth El gave a heartfelt introduction to “Heal Us Now,” a musical prayer that asks for “peace for every race and nation, every child, every woman, every man.”

Goren said he felt compelled to sing “Heal Us Now” in response to the many tragedies recently experienced by our nation, including the devastating fires in California and the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Goren thenacknowledged that Rabbi Cheryl Klein, spiritual leader for Tree of Life Synagogue’s Dor Hadash congregation, was present at the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service that evening. (Klein maintains a home at the shore.)

Father Pawel Kryszkiewicz of Holy Trinity Parish in Margate read from George Washington’s 1795 Thanksgiving proclamation, which recommended that Americans observe “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer…to preserve us from the arrogance of prosperity.”

Rabbi Jonathan Kremer read a portion of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1959 Thanksgiving address: “We are grateful that our beloved country…remains free and strong, and that each of us can worship G-d in his own way… With gratitude in our hearts for all our blessings may we… rededicate ourselves to unselfish striving for the common betterment of mankind.”

Rev. Collins Days of Second Baptist Church in Atlantic City read an excerpt from Barak Obama’s 2016 address: “On this holiday, we count our blessings and renew our commitment to giving back. We give thanks for our troops and our veterans…for the first responders, teachers, and engaged Americans who serve their communities, and for the chance to live in a country founded on the belief that all of us are created equal….On this day of gratitude, we are also reminded that securing these freedoms and opportunities for all people is an unfinished task.”

Kaleem Shabazz, a community activist and practicing Muslim, represented the Muslim community at the service. He offered a Thanksgiving message inspired by the teachings of the Quran. “As we approach the holiday…we must join hands and recognize the common principles that unite us as human beings,” he stressed. “We must decry those who speak to our baser instincts and inflame us” by stressing our differences.

The service ended with a stirring rendition of God Bless America led by Cantor Harvey Wolbransky of Shirat Hayam, who led the choir and worshippers in song. 

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