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Interfaith breakfast draws 500

Tuesday, February 20, 2001

The Teaneck Community Chorus performing at the prayer breakfast Monday morning in HARLES AUSTIN
Staff Writer

Even the food they ate at breakfast drew attention to their religious differences. There were vegetarian plates and kosher meals, andfor the sake of inter religious harmony, bacon and ham were not served with the eggs and potatoes.

The nearly 500 people who attended the Interfaith Brotherhood-Sisterhood Breakfast in Teaneck on Monday were challenged to turn the friendliness around the breakfast table into a powerful social mission.

"When all of us speak together, we cannot be denied," said Rabbi Daniel Polish of Manhattan, director of the Joint Commission on Social Action of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, an organization of Reform synagogues, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He was addressing an audience brought together for the 15th consecutive year by a coalition of Bergen County religious groups, including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Baha'is.

The Presidents' Day breakfast is part of an effort to improve religious and racial harmony in North Jersey.

Polish told a group of students, many with families in troubled parts of the world: "You should keep your loyalty and devotion toward your kinspeople across the seas while you live together here and learn to love one another.

"If those uncles and aunts and kinspeople over there see you here [mixing with people of other faiths], maybe they can learn from you," he concluded.

Citing diverse religious leaders such as Pope John Paul II and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the rabbi said religious people are to be "God's partners" in solving the world's problems. One strain of Jewish thought, he said, teaches that the world was created "incomplete," so that "we are given the job of completing and perfecting it."

While all religious traditions teach reverence for creation, he said people of different faiths could learn from one another about the "holiness" and "sanctity" of the world.

"The planet is jeopardized by the same technologies that we consider such a blessing," he said. For example, he said the Internet is seen as a great equalizer but lack of access to it may widen the gap between people.

The globalization of the world's economy "does not necessarily increase common human dignity," he added, noting that marketplace economics frequently "ignore human need," and that while the wealth of the United States has increased, all have not benefited.

"Religious people have to tell the nation that the poor are still with us," Polish said.

Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, D-N.J., in an unscheduled talk, referred to President Bush's plan to channel federal funds to faith-based organizations with community programs. This is "a new chapter," he said, in the relationship between religious organizations and government.

Torricelli said the "new experiment is not without risks" and urged religious groups and governmental agencies to work together to "retain the proper balance" between church and state.

In addition to people from religious communities, the breakfast traditionally draws county and state political leaders. Previous speakers have included Roman Catholic bishops and archbishops, Protestant clergy, a Catholic nun, an official of the Baha'i World Center in Israel, Muslim scholars, and a Hindu swami from India.

Staff Writer Charles Austin's e-mail address is

©Copyright 2001, The Record

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