Almost 200 people came out to Congregation Beth Shalom in Naperville for the Faces of Our Community: Interfaith and Anti-Hate Forum.
Illinois Representative Bill Foster led a panel of community members and religious leaders for an evening to discuss how to oppose prejudice, hate, and bigotry.
“This shows that people understand that there’s a problem in the United States and that the best solution happens at the local level,” said Foster. “To have everyone stand up and say, “this is not us.”
The forum was put together in response to an anti-Semitic message spray painted at Naperville’s Schmaltz Deli over the summer.
The owner of the deli, Howard Bender, joined the panel discussion, along with Reverend Grace Imathiu from United Methodist Church of Naperville, Rizwan Ali from the Islamic Center of Naperville, and Rabbi Noam Marans, a National Director of Interreligious Affairs.
“I can’t think of a better way to combat disunity than opening our doors and saying ‘I want to know more about my neighbor,’” said Rabbi Marans. “I want to know more about my neighbor’s practices. I want to know what’s going inside that church, that synagogue, that mosque.’”
The group answered questions from the audience, which included everything from responding to prejudice and hate, to how food from different cultures can bring people together.
Many enjoyed the discussion so much that they’re hoping for others in the future.
“I think that this is a wonderful opportunity and the more parishes we can get involved, and religious leaders, educators, and students on the same panels would be a great thing,” said attendee Sue Mack.
Celebrating Naperville’s diversity while continuing to grow an interfaith dialogue.
Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.