By Stephanie Smartschan
JFLV Director of Community Development & Operations
and Bayley Carl
JFLV Marketing & Engagement Associate
The Bethlehem Interfaith Group has some big plans for the spring.
On Sunday, April 5, the group, representing 14 different faith communities in Bethlehem, will host an interfaith seder at Congregation Brith Sholom.
“What will make it unique and special is gathering people from different religious traditions and communities here in Bethlehem, to experience the ‘Feast of Freedom.’ The desire for freedom is something that we all share—as well as not taking freedom for granted,” said Rabbi Michael Singer of Brith Sholom, who also heads up the interfaith group. “We can break matzah together and have an opportunity to share our Jewish tradition and the story of the Exodus, which has served as inspiration for many, many faiths and civil rights movements. Especially in our world today, to be all sitting around the table together speaks volumes.”
The group expects more than 200 people to be in attendance. The seder is funded in part by a Community Impact Grant from the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley.
After the seder, plans are underway for a B.I.G. celebration of the National Day of Prayer on May 7 and an op-ed will soon be coming out in local newspapers that puts forth the group’s positive vision for the future.
“We’re just working really hard to create a community that is impactful, but also brings us together instead of tearing us apart,” Singer said. “That’s the whole goal of the organization, and we believe that everyone of good heart and mind that wants to add their voice to making a better Bethlehem community and a better world can be part of it.”
Founded in 2018, the group meets monthly to discuss topics of importance to all faith communities in Bethlehem. Past events have included a “faith crawl” to different houses of worship –something they’ll repeat this fall – an interfaith Thanksgiving and a screening of the movie “Inside Out.”
“It’s been a really exciting thing to be a part of,” said the Rev. Dr. Steve Simmons of First Presbyterian Church in Bethlehem. “If you do it in a mutually respectful way, it’s amazing how much ground you can cover.”
And they won’t stop there. This summer, the group plans to hold an interfaith service during Musikfest, one of the largest and most diverse music festivals in the nation held in Bethlehem each year.