There’s something about Thanksgiving

Tis the season for interfaith get-togethers.

Around Thanksgiving, numerous local groups pull together people from different faiths for a few prayers and snacks. You usually get mostly mainline Protestants and Jews, with a smattering of Catholics and Orthodox Christians and a Muslim or two.

At least that’s the mix in the NY burbs.

The Westchester chapter of the American Jewish Committee will hold its regular Thanksgiving Diversity Breakfast on Thursday at Manhattanville College. This is a unique event, as participants will take turns reading aloud from a special “reader” written by the AJC, which tells the story of how immigrants from many cultures come to the U.S. to share our special freedoms.

I’ve been to several of the breakfasts and it can be a moving experience.

This year, the breakfast will honor Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson of Temple Beth-El of Northern Westchester and Reverend Paul S. Briggs of the Antioch Baptist Church in Bedford Hills, both of whom are very active in interfaith work in their community.

The Peekskill Area Pastors Association will host an inter-religious service next Sunday (Nov. 22) at 5 p.m. at the St. Columbanus Church, 122 Oregon Road, in Cortlandt Manor.

And there will be many others (which I’m sure I will hear about after I post this).

Oh, those Jewish divisions

The different movements within Judaism — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist — can be at odds on so many things.

I sometimes wonder if the divisions may, at some point, overwhelm what holds the Jewish world together.

The Westchester chapter of the American Jewish Committee apparently wonders the same thing. It will present a program — “Does our unity still outweigh our divisions?” — tomorrow (April 30) at Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains.

The 7:30 p.m. program is open to the public, but space is limited. To attend, call 914-948-5585 or email Westchester@ajc.org.

The panelists representing the four teams:

In the Reconstructionist corner, Rabbi Lester Bronstein of Bet Am Shalom Synagogue in White Plains.

For the Reform, Kol Ami’s own Rabbi Shira Milgrom.

Batting for the Conservatives, Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman of the Westchester Jewish Center in Mamaroneck.

And standing in for the Orthodox, Rabbi David Israel of the Bi-Cultural Day School in Stamford.

The referee (moderator) will be Rabbi Noam Marans, the AJC’s associate director of contemporary Jewish life.

Faith in the County Center

There promises to be a lot of prayer at the Westchester County Center in White Plains over the next few days.

Tonight from 6 to 10 p.m., a Dobbs Ferry congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses will hold a “celebration of the Memorial of the Lord’s Evening Meal.”

Tomorrow, a coalition of churches called Westchester One in Praise will hold its 10 annual Good Friday service at the WCC at 7:30 p.m. More than 5,000 people usually attend. This year’s featured speaker will be Grammy nominated gospel singer Marvin Sapp, Senior Pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church of Grand Rapids, Mich. Doors open at 6.

And on Saturday at 7 p.m., the Turkish Cultural Center of Westchester will hold a celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. There will be Sufi music, art, a Turkish calligraphy exhibition, and poems and songs by a children’s chorus from Bosnia and Turkey.

Protesting war (in churches)

I had an article yesterday — unrelated to the appointment of an archbishop — that I would like to recommend for your perusal.

Here’s the deal (if you missed it): A few months ago, I heard about a group of people opposed to the war in Iraq who were stopping by Westchester churches to demonstrate. Their method struck me as, well, odd. I heard that they simply show up, sit in a pew for a while, and then get up, move to the side of the church and silently unroll banners that protest the war.

I found a reference to the group on the Web, contacted one of them and met with the group, which opposes both the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I wrote about who they are, what their motivations are, and how some clergy feel about the unannounced visits.

Yes, that’s them.

Although I’ve been pretty swamped with archbishop-related stuff, I’ve received some interesting calls and emails about the article and have heard some meaty conversations about the group and their method of protest.

One reader pointed out an oversight on my part: The demonstration may be illegal.

New York Penal Law includes:

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Section 240.21 Disruption, or disturbance of religious service

A person is guilty of aggravated disorderly conduct, who makes unreasonable noise or disturbance while at a lawfully assembled religious service or within one hundred feet thereof, with intent to cause annoyance or alarm or recklessly creating a risk thereof.

Aggravated disorderly conduct is a class A misdemeanor.

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Are these demonstrators making “unreasonable noise or disturbance?” Noise? No. Disturbance? Quite possibly.

Is their intent to cause “annoyance or alarm or recklessly creating a risk?” Their whole point is to cause annoyance.