‘Love Thy Neighbor’ theme of multi-faith Thanksgiving service


Rabbi Sarah Freidson, Rev. Kathleen Berkowe and Deacon John Scarfi.

MAHOPAC – Temple Beth Shalom in Mahopac was the setting for a multi-faith Thanksgiving service and celebration Sunday evening when 100 Christians and Jews gathered to learn one of the most fundamental principles on earth: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Rabbi Sarah Freidson was joined by the Rev. Kathleen Berkowe of the Church of the Holy Communion and Deacon John Scarfi of St. John’s Church in Mahopac for the hour long spiritual gathering.
Rabbi Freidson told the congregation consisting of men, women and children: “Thanksgiving is an opportunity to reflect on the abundance of blessings we have while expressing gratitude. We all must be grateful to our community and county.”
The Talmud contains a debate between two great early rabbis, Ben Azzai and Rabbi Akiva.
 “Rabbi Akiva has taught us that the most fundamental principle is: ‘Love your neighbor’ which is the most important teaching in the Bible,” Freidson noted. “Think about that: We must overcome our selfishness and petty focus on ourselves in order to have compassion, empathy and kindness for others. Love may be a feeling but Judaism teaches that love is a verb. You can’t dictate a feeling but you can command an action. We must always behave lovingly towards each other.”

Young and old gathered in peace

Deacon Scrafi added that in order to love each other “we must go outside of ourselves and give whatever we have. We must become listeners in order to hear what people have to say and be here to hold someone in need.”
Rev. Berkowe echoed her fellow clergy: “Love thy neighbor is the most important commandment because we must reach out to someone who needs love.”
Attendees for the service were broken into discussion groups for a session tabbed: ‘Hello Neighbor!’
Topics included happy childhood Thanksgiving memories; teachers participants were most grateful for; favorite Thanksgiving foods; the one thing individuals learned this year that they were most thankful; and advice to pass along to the next generation as they establish their own Thanksgiving traditions.