Rabbi speaks of interfaith action: Believes people of all religions must ‘lock arms’


Members of Congregation Agudas Israel and others in the community listen to Rabbi Capers Funnye on Sunday in Newburgh. Times Herald-Record/JEFF GOULDING

NEWBURGH — In the eyes of one rabbi, faith is meaningless if people don’t take action.

Faith can heal the wounds of inequality, bring justice to all and allow all people to prosper.

But, according to Rabbi Capers Funnye Jr., all this is impossible to achieve unless people of all faiths — Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus — and even those of no faith work together for the common good, for all humanity.

“Are we afraid to lock arms together to continue the struggle for those who still have not received justice and equality in our society?” he said before a group inside Congregation Agudas Israel in Newburgh Sunday.

“We can’t wait. We need to act because without actions, dreams will cease to be real.”

Funnye, whose wife, Mary, is a first cousin to first lady Michelle Obama, is the head rabbi of Beth Shalom B’Nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County flew Funnye to the Hudson Valley this weekend to headline its foundation’s largest annual fundraising event Saturday night.

Funnye also spoke about the need for interfaith, the idea of bringing all religions together to better humanity.

Funnye sees the power of interfaith cooperation on the South Side of Chicago, where one organization he works with uses faith to combat poverty, racism and anti-Semitism.

He believes there is a place for faith inside school buildings, a place that would educate students on the moral principles all faiths share without advocating religious conversion.

His audience as much as his words reflected the need for interfaith. Pastors and leaders from a number of churches and other places of worship also attended the event and spoke in agreement about the power of collective faiths.

Invoking the meeting of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel at the Selma Civil Rights March in Alabama in 1965, Funnye challenged everyone to continue the path left by past leaders.

“We need each of us, as African-Americans, as Jews, as Christians, as Muslims, as Hindus,” he said, “to work and continue the task before us.”

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