One of the more vexing political issues of our day is the plight of refugees and immigrants in our country. As the weeks move closer to election, immigration once again will play a major part in who is chosen for one reason or the other. Those on the left and the right politically are not happy with the present policies and laws regulating immigration. And it does matter who wins on Nov. 6 especially in the Congress since it wields control over most immigration-related regulations because they are a matter of federal law. Ergo your vote in November will have an impact on immigration law one way or another.
This year’s annual interfaith program “Breaking Bread Together,” sponsored by the Jewish-Christian-Muslim Dialogue of Southern New Jersey, is presenting a timely presentation on the issue of immigration titled, “From Refugee to Neighbor — Local Refugees Share their American Stories.” One of the speakers will be Patrick Barry, program director for Refugee/Immigration Services, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden.
Patrick was born in Philadelphia and raised here in South Jersey. He is a son of a refugee. He graduated with a master’s degree in public administration, specializing in international public service and development. In 2015, he was appointed as the director of Refugee and Immigration Services at Catholic Charities as the point person for the integration process of families fleeing war torn and post conflict regions of the world.
Other speakers are local residents who are refugees from Syria, Myanmar (Burma), Eritrea and Russia. They will share their personal stories.
The event will take place just two days before Election Day, on Sunday, Nov. 4, starting 2 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 207 W. Main Street, Moorestown. Seating is limited, pre-registration is recommended by emailing your name, phone number and number of attendees to firstname.lastname@example.org
Parking is limited at the church; you can use municipal parking on West Second Street of Church Street in Moorestown. All are invited and admission is free, refreshments will be served. Please come out and join your friends from the Jewish and Muslim communities for an afternoon of learning and fellowship.
Another interfaith happening in November is a redo of our Catholic -Jewish program at Beth Judah Temple, Pacific and Spencer avenues, Wildwood, on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. The presentation is open to the public and is free of charge. Refreshments will be served.
We will be viewing the film “My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes.” It is a documentary film written and directed by Oren Jacoby, and it tells the true story of the rescue of thousands of Italian Jews during World War II by ordinary and prominent Italians.
One of these Italians was the champion cyclist Geno Bartali. The film is narrated by actress Isabella Rossellini and it tells the story by relating the accounts of Jewish survivors who return to Italy in their late adulthood to revisit the scenes of their worst nightmares as they hid in terror, fled in desperation, were separated from their loved ones and unknowingly some said goodbye to their family members for the last time.
The film is a mixture of archival footage and reenactments in addition to interviews with survivors and relatives of the rescuers. It describes how many Italians, including Roman Catholic priests, who risked their lives to hide Jews from the Nazi troops after the German occupation of Italy in 1943.
The film focuses on Bartali, who is shown in some of the archival material and whose son Andrea is interviewed.
The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini viewed Bartali as a paragon of fascist values because he believed he proved that Italians were part of the “master race.” But Bartali rejected fascism and opposed its anti-Semitic policies. During the war he traveled throughout Italy on his bicycle while pretending to train for competitions, while he was really delivering documents for hidden Jews.
He did this on the behest of the archbishop of Florence, where he resided. Bartali never spoke of his wartime exploits after the war, not even to his family, and only did so late in life. Bartali risked his own life and the life of his family by his saving actions. In 2013, Bartali was recognized as a “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem for his heroic efforts to save Jews during the war.
I hope you will be able to join us for these two interfaith offerings next month.
Father Joseph D. Wallace is director, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, Diocese of Camden.