Interfaith Thanksgiving celebration promotes love, acceptance in Buffalo Grove

Choosing love and peace over hatred and bigotry was at the center of an interfaith Thanksgiving celebration Sunday night that brought together Christian and Jewish congregations from the northwest suburbs.

Nearly 1,000 people gathered in song, prayer and worship at St. Mary Parish in Buffalo Grove for the annual event, put on by the Northwest Suburban Interfaith Council. Organizers said this year's celebration — with a theme of “Am I My Brother's Keeper?” — is especially significant in light of last month's mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Local faith leaders pointed to other acts of violence fueled by racism and religious intolerance in recent history, and they urged those in attendance to stand together, protect one another and promote respect among people of all walks of life.

“Tonight, in solidarity, the question ‘am I my brother's keeper?' cannot remain unanswered,” said Rabbi Morris Zimbalist of Congregation Beth Judea. “Rather, tonight we must join hands, link arms and walk side by side with a resounding, ‘yes.' We are all brothers and sisters.”

The interfaith council was created in 1990 after anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered on the Northwest Suburban Jewish Community Center. President Jay Jayapalan said the nonprofit has taken great strides to support community members in need while fostering an understanding of various faiths. But more can be done.

“Faith behooves us to act,” he said. “Let us increase our efforts and bring to our community hope, courage and encouragement that God offers to all of us.”

The interfaith council represents 10 suburban faith communities: St. Mary Parish, Congregation Beth Am, Kingswood United Methodist Church, Hope Lutheran Church and Congregation B'nai Shalom in Buffalo Grove; Congregation Beth Judea and Temple Chai in Long Grove; St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church of Good Shepherd in Prospect Heights; and Shir Hadash Synagogue in Wheeling.

Combined congregational choirs, bands and dance groups participated in Sunday's celebration. Attendees also were encouraged to bring nonperishable items to donate to local food pantries.

“We live in a time where anger and contempt reign throughout our political stratosphere — a time when respect has taken a submissive role to vitriol. My prayer to every one of you tonight is that we not succumb to this type of behavior,” said Pastor Jim Andrews of Hope Lutheran Church. “I would pray instead we can be a model of the type of behavior that brings peace, patience, understanding and respect to every situation in life that we should encounter.”

  A dance group performs in front of nearly 1,000 people who attended an interfaith Thanksgiving celebration Sunday at St. Mary Parish in Buffalo Grove. Lauren Rohr/
  Father Dan Whiteside of St. Mary Parish sings about uniting in love Sunday during an interfaith Thanksgiving celebration at his church in Buffalo Grove. Lauren Rohr/
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