2015-12-09 / Voice at the Shore

Ecumenical group holds Thanksgiving service at Beth El

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore correspondent


Cantor Ralph Goren of Beth El Synagogue leads choir members from numerous downbeach houses of worship in a stirring performance of “Prayer of Thanksgiving.” Cantor Ralph Goren of Beth El Synagogue leads choir members from numerous downbeach houses of worship in a stirring performance of “Prayer of Thanksgiving.” Approximately 60 people representing houses of worship throughout the area attended the Downbeach Ministerium’s Ecumenical Thanksgiving service at Beth El Synagogue on Monday evening, November 23. Jewish and Christian religious leaders, primarily from Longport, Margate and Ventnor, offered an outpouring of Thanksgiving poetry and prayers to encourage an “attitude of gratitude,” both for the upcoming holiday and for daily life.

“We come to you with hungry hearts, waiting to be filled,” said Reverend David Fleming of the Margate Community Church in the service’s opening invocation.

Beth El’s Rabbi Krauss then asked all present to take part in a moment of silence for the victims of terrorism from Mali, Paris, and Beirut and on the Russian airplane in Egypt.


Reverend Gene Wilkins of the Ventnor Community Church delivers the sermon at the Downbeach Ministerium’s Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service at Beth El on Nov. 23. Reverend Gene Wilkins of the Ventnor Community Church delivers the sermon at the Downbeach Ministerium’s Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service at Beth El on Nov. 23. Ventnor Community Church’s Reverend Gene Wilkins, the newest member of the Downbeach Ministerium, gave the sermon. Wilkins appealed to his listeners to remember and be thankful for their “salvation history”— the times that God has intervened and offered his help, both throughout history and in individuals’ own lives.

Contributions were collected for the Community Food Bank following the recitation of “A Thanksgiving Prayer” by Daniel Pugh, which began, “O God, when I have food, help me to remember the hungry.”

The service ended with a stirring performance of “Let there Be Peace on Earth” and “God Bless America” by the Community Choir—a group blending choir members from numerous downbeach houses of worship.

The Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service is an annual tradition of the Downbeach Ministerium, a longstanding group of religious leaders that meets monthly to build bonds of unity to benefit the local community, said Hazzan Jeffrey Myers of Congregation Beth Judah in Ventnor, the Ministerium’s current chairperson.

“It’s important for clergy of the community to meet regularly, get to know each other, and to be able to work together for the betterment of the community,” he explained. The group has worked together to identify and address community needs in times of crises, such as following Superstorm Sandy and casino closings.

“We were particularly active after Sandy. When all of the government resources had been used up, we saw that there were many people whose needs had not been met. That’s when the clergy and our houses of worship needed to step in,” noted Myers.

Ministerium members regularly talk about what they can do “either collectively or individually in our houses of worship,” to help people affected by casino closings, homelessness and poverty. “By communicating with each other regularly, we eliminate duplication of services and efforts,” Myers explained.

The Downbeach Ministerium is one of several local ecumenical groups of religious leaders, noted Beth El Synagogue’s Rabbi Aaron Krauss. Bridge of Faith, which Krauss co-founded four years ago with Kaleem Shabazz of Atlantic City’s Masjid Muhammad, brings shore area religious leaders together to gain a better understanding of each other’s religious beliefs and traditions so that they can better educate the community and build an environment of mutual respect and tolerance, said Krauss. .

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