ROCKLAND, Maine ― For at least the last 25 years, a Rockland synagogue has partnered with an Episcopal church to put on an Easter dinner that is open to everyone in the community.
As rain and fog created a dreary sight Sunday, warm smells and conversation poured out from inside of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, where about 100 people were sharing a meal organized by volunteers from Adas Yoshuron Synagogue.
“It’s the synagogue’s gift to the community,” said Shelly Kushner, a past president of Adas Yoshuron Synagogue. “In the Jewish tradition, the concept of doing ‘mitzvahs’ [is doing] something to help other people. When you can do a mitzvah and it’s somebody else’s Easter, it’s like a double whammy.”
Preparations for the meal start nearly two months in advance, according to Laurence Ann Coe, who was helping run the show Sunday. Linda Garson-Smith is in charge of putting the event together, though she was in Colorado for passover ― which began Friday ― and was unable to see her hard work play out Sunday, Coe said.
The synagogue also puts on the Christmas meal at the church. Since the Jewish faith does not celebrate Christmas or Easter, Coe said having members of the synagogue organize the community meal allows those who observe the holidays enjoy their meal.
About 75 volunteers from the synagogue and the local community as a whole were dishing out ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, soup, bread and other tasty treats Sunday afternoon. All of the food served at the meal was donated, Coe said, with most of the food being prepared by local restaurants.
According to those who were volunteering, the collaboration between the church and the synagogue goes to show that there is good in this world, despite an abundance of differences.
“I think there are a lot of divides in America today. We’re dividing each other based on religion and race and sexuality. This is a way to show that we are all human and we do care about each other,” volunteer Shayna Cohen said.
Based on the conversations and laughter coming from the dining room at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Cohen’s observation was spot on.
“Everyone is visiting with each other. There is a wonderful wonderful energy here,” volunteer Barbara Klappordt said. “They’re having a great time, and that’s what is most important.”