2017-12-06 / Voice at the Shore

Locals of all faiths count their blessings at Thanksgiving service

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor


Father Pawel Kryskiewicz of St. Joseph’s Parish is Camden read from President Obama’s 2016 Thanksgiving proclamation in Camden. Father Pawel Kryskiewicz of St. Joseph’s Parish is Camden read from President Obama’s 2016 Thanksgiving proclamation in Camden. In 1789, President George Washington issued our nation’s first Thanksgiving proclamation. In it, he recommended that all Americans “set apart and observe… a day of public thanksgiving and prayer” that would unite and inspire both leaders and citizens.

The Downbeach Ministerium’s Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, held November 20 at Shirat Hayam, harkened back to Washington’s proclamation, which was read by Rabbi Jonathan Kremer during the service. The service, which was attended and led by representatives of different faiths from the many houses of worship that are part of the Downbeach Ministerium, did indeed unite and inspire the roughly 100 community members who attended.

Reverend Collins Days of the Second Baptist Church, a large African-American congregation in Atlantic City, gave the sermon or “evening message.” Days began by acknowledging Shirat Hayam’s Reform rabbi, Gordon Geller, who recently celebrated 50 years in the rabbinate. “Rabbi Geller is my hero,” said Days. “Fifty years of serving God and doing tremendous work—I think he deserves a round of applause,” he told attendees, who enthusiastically responded.


“Everyone has a reason to thank God,” stressed Reverend Collins Days of Atlantic City’s Second Baptist Church at the Downbeach Ministerium’s Thanksgiving service. “Everyone has a reason to thank God,” stressed Reverend Collins Days of Atlantic City’s Second Baptist Church at the Downbeach Ministerium’s Thanksgiving service. Days also acknowledged the importance of the gathering, which brought people of different cultures and faiths together in an era of national divisiveness. “God must be pleased!” said Days.

The reverend’s main message was right in line with George Washington’s first Thanksgiving proclamation. “Everyone has a reason to thank God,” stressed Days, who proceeded to touch on the many, many reasons that he and all present had to be thankful. “Give thanks to God because his mercy endures forever,” he said. He urged people to think of all the unpleasant things “that could have happened but didn’t,” or that did happen, yet “you survived it,” which is “reason to give thanks,” he said.

“I used to say that God is a God of second chances, but I realized I was wrong,” noted Days. Also leading the service were Reverend David Fleming of the Margate Community Church, Reverend William Williams III of the United Methodist Church in Atlantic City, Kaleem Shabazz of the Atlantic City mosque Masjid Muhammad, as well as representatives of many other local houses of worship. Cantor Harvey Wolbransky of Shirat Hayam and Cantor Ralph Goren of Beth El Synagogue also led a combined choir from the synagogue, and the men’s choir from Days’ Second Baptist Church also offered an uplifting performance.

Presidential Thanksgiving proclamations by Madison, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Obama were also read throughout the service. 

Return to top