CAPE MAY COUNTY – In the midst of a world filled with turmoil, war, and division, two faith communities in the Cape Atlantic District are aiming for the higher goal of “Peace & Unity.” That is the title of the recent series of gatherings between Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Erma, Lower Township, and Congregation Beth Judah in downtown Wildwood.
In November 2017, the EPIC Youth Group (Everything’s Possible In Christ) from Tabernacle visited the Beth Judah Temple for a meal and a tour and a time of great fellowship and deep learning about Methodism’s Jewish roots. The Torah scrolls of the five books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) were displayed. Each youth was encouraged to touch the scroll with the Yad (“hand” in Hebrew), a metal pointer used as a guide for reading to avoid physically touching the holy parchment.
One month later, EPIC joined students from Wildwood Catholic High School for a Friday evening Shabbat (Sabbath) service at Beth Judah. Rabbi Ronald Isaacs, the leader of the congregation, took time during each portion of the service to explain its significance to the Jewish people. Even though this event happened on the same night as the Wildwood Christmas Parade, “Rabbi Ron” as he is known, did not miss a beat. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed refreshments in the adjacent fellowship hall. Part of the celebration included kugel, a pudding/casserole dish made of egg noodles and/or potatoes traditionally served on Shabbat.
In early February 2018, the members of Beth Judah and Tabernacle joined together in the Tabernacle sanctuary for further Peace & Unity. It was an hour of scripture and story from Isaacs, his wife Leora, and Tabernacle’s Associate Pastor, Rev. Jennifer Bolton. After this encouraging and uplifting time, all joined in the narthex for refreshments, further conversation, and of course, more kugel.
Isaacs said the theme of peace and unity is very relevant “because we have so many divisions within our own country as well as the world-at-large.” He added that when it comes to people of different faiths there also is much miscommunication and that it’s important for those in each faith to learn from the other, “what it has in common and work together for the common good.” Isaacs highlighted Psalm 34:4 emphasizing that “working to bring more peace into the world is considered an important Jewish virtue, and it must be pursued at all times.” He added that Beth Judah is the only Jewish presence in all of Cape May County. Isaac’s relationship with Bolton, who has been involved with Beth Judah for a couple of years prior to Isaac’s arrival, made Tabernacle a natural partner for such a gathering and he hopes to have more partnership opportunities going forward.
Bolton said the Peace & Unity event is important because “we live in a world full of fear and misconception.” Bolton added that she was surprised at some of the curious and perceived confused comments received upon telling others of her involvement at a Jewish synagogue.
“It is always the unknown that scares us the most,” she said, sharing her joy of meeting new friends, learning new things, and having awesome experiences.
“Once the people see [the unknown] for themselves, they realize it’s not that bad,” she said. “Peace and unity come from knowing one another, sharing memories, and creating experiences.”
Bolton stresses, however, that talking about peace is not enough – “acting out peace is how it is truly achieved.” She hopes that this relationship with Beth Judah will continue and flourish, “moving us forward to one day sharing perfect peace.”
Rabi Isaacs is encouraged that the GNJ Annual Conference meeting is in Wildwood [May 20-22, at the Convention Center] and encourages GNJ attendees to stop by. Those interested can visit bethjudahtemple.org for more information. Erma Tabernacle can be reached at ErmaTabernacle.org