While the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the District of Columbia recalled the divide between religious extremists and America, a daylong effort by the East Jefferson Interfaith Clergy Association (EJICA) sought to build trust between disparate local religious communities.
The effort began with the various religious congregations meeting for a beautification project at Kenner’s Rivertown. The complex of buildings and museums shuttered in the past year by city officials for fiscal reasons had fallen into disrepair. Over the course of several hours new paint was applied to buildings and landscaping was improved with flowers by an estimated 200 volunteers, including U. S. Attorney Jim Letten.
A small, but dedicated Jewish group was organized and led by Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Uri Topolosky.
Following the service project participants gathered at the new school and Islamic Cultural Center in Kenner to share food and listen to religious leaders reflect on the day. The gathering was a gumbo of religious beliefs, so two types of gumbo – halal and kosher varieties – were served to the hungry crowd.
“We were hoping to work together in an interfaith community and build some walls,” Topolosky said in reflecting about the construction project. “We did a really meaningful service project together at Rivertown, but more important, it was a day of not building walls, but tearing them down. (We were) beginning to trust, to see one another, to acknowledge one another and to recognize that there’s a larger community here that we don’t see outside of our own four walls.”
Topolosky said this was especially significant on a day like 9/11, which focuses on the hate against America others ferment. He added that in this spirit of continued open mindedness EJICA’s next joint project will be to come together for another project on Martin Luther King Day in January.