2002-11-23 / Community

Worshiping Together Since 1927

Worshiping Together Since 1927

The year was 1927 and America was still in the heady "Roaring Twenties" period. World War I was becoming a distant memory having ended nine years previously. The Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression it brought were only two years away.

In that year, Rockaway was considered a summer community, a playground for the rich and famous.

For many residents, however, it was a place to live and to join together with neighbors, particularly at holiday time.

Rabbi Harry Richmond of Temple Beth-El and Minister John C. Green of the First Congregational Church had an idea. Their two congregations would join on Thanksgiving Day for a joint celebration of life and religion.

That idea turned into a 75 year tradition which will be continued this Thanksgiving Day when the two congregations get together at the Rockaway Park temple.

"This joint service is indicative of our communities," says Rabbi Allan Blaine, the current religious leader of Temple Beth-El. "There have been problems over the years, but we have seen more good will."

"The friendliness just oozes out," adds Reverend Jan Powell, the current religious leader of the First Congregational Church. "Usually, the turnout is small, but the dialogue goes on."

The two leaders believe that their joint service is the longest continuous one in the area.

"There was a story in one of the daily papers last year about a joint service in Queens that had been going on for 65 years," Blaine told The Wave. "We’re probably the oldest."

Each year, the Rabbi sends letters of invitation to the church members, while Reverend Powell sends similar letters to the temple’s congregation.

"The Jewish-Christian dialogue is a wonderful thing," Powell says. "We are constantly serving each other."

Each year, the joint service raises money for the Peninsula Hospital Center.

In 1934, the synagogue invited the church choir to join the services. Each year since, the choir has joined the synagogue’s resident cantor in song.

The two religious leaders are hoping to keep the tradition going, perhaps another 25 years to make it an even one hundred.

Anybody who knows both Rabbi Blaine and Reverend Powell would make that a sure bet.

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