Interfaith Education

First Presbyterian Church of Rutherford's Interfaith Education series is designed to promote respect and mutual understanding between all faiths and cultures by focusing on what we have common rather than on our differences. 

Our Interfaith Programs are typically offered on Sunday mornings after our worship service and consist of a 30-45 minute presentation followed by a similarly timed interactive discussion session. Conversations often continue in small groups well after the session ends as participants enjoy coffee and dessert and discuss what they have discovered about themselves and the world around them.

Past Events

  • Visit to Chuang Yen Monastery

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  • Temple Tour

    On Sunday Sept. 30, the First Presbyterian Church of Rutherford took a field trip to and private tour of The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Robbinsville, New Jersey. The group toured the mandir and saw the monks open the Sacred Shrines that housed the deities. They were also part of Asshishek Ceremony where water is poured over the murti in an offering. It is an expression of reverence and prayer. 

    It is considered one of the largest Hindu temples in the world. The awe-inspiring marble mandir resides within a larger visitor’s center, which protects the intricate place of worship from the elements. Measuring 42 feet tall, 133 feet long, and 87 feet wide, the temple is made entirely of Carrara marble imported from Italy to Rajasthan, India, where hundreds of artisans hand-carved the 13,499 pieces. The finished mandir, which opened in 2014, is an awe-inspiring work of craftsmanship that took a total of 4.7 million man hours—from craftsmen to volunteers—to complete. Among the thousands of elaborate carvings are 98 sthambhas (or carved pillars), 66 peacock-style arches, 144 sacred figures, and 91 elephants with various musical instruments and flowers. 

  • an afternoon with rumi's love poems

    We hosted an afternoon on the renowned 13th century Sufi poet Rumi with Rumi historian and lecturer Peter Rogan. Rogen shared fascinating background information and recited many examples of Rumi’s famous love poetry.


    Peter Rogen is a well-known presenter of Rumi’s poetry. He has given more than 150 lectures and performances at venues like the National Cathedral in Wash. DC, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and many colleges and universities including Amherst, Boston College, College of NJ, Duke, FIU, SUNY Albany, UMass, and Yale. He also edited Mirza Ashraf’s “Rumi’s Holistic Humanism”, available from SUNY Press.


    Rumi, a 13th century Sufi, mystic poet, believed that "love is the strongest unifying force," and that its force is present everywhere and in everything. Although many of Rumi’s poems can be read as ordinary love poems, they are really about the love of God, whom he often called the "Friend" or the "Beloved."


    Rumi has inspired people for centuries as the “revealer of love’s secrets.” In humankind's fight to root out conflict, violence and war, Rumi's holistic view of unconditional love may prove one of our best friends. "Gamble everything for love if you're a true human being. Half-heartedness never reaches into majesty.”- Rumi.


  • a celebration of gandhi

    We hosted an Interfaith Education program entitled A Celebration of Gandhi in Word and Art in cooperation with the Church, the EduCare Foundation of New Jersey and the Shanti (Peace) Fund of Long Island, NY. The program included presentations on Gandhi’s life and lessons, singing and dance performances on his favorite prayers, and a question and answer session.

    During 20th century, several historical political and social reforms were achieved through heroic adaptation of non-violence in their movements by leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Gandhi became one of the most respected political and spiritual leaders for his doctrine of nonviolent protest to achieve political and social progress. He insisted that people struggling for their rights should not violate their basic obligation to respect life. The nonviolent protests of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for racial justice were inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s model for nonviolent civil disobedience. King said that while Jesus gave him his message, Gandhi showed him the method. Gandhi did not invent nonviolence or civil disobedience. He was inspired by the Bible, Hindu holy book Bhagavad Gita, and writers such as Henry Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy.

    The Gandhi Day program was coordinated by Rutherford resident Naresh Jain. Jain is the Emeritus Trustee of Chicago based Parliament of the World’s Religions, and President of EduCare Foundation that awards grants to schools for education of needy children in India and New Jersey. The keynote speaker of the program was Arvind Vora, Chairman of Shanti Fund from Long Island as well as the Chairman of the Long Island Multifaith Forum in New York. Arvind is also co-founder of Shanti (Peace) Fund which celebrates Oct. 2, the actual birth day of Mahatma Gandhi every year in Long Island. Its mission is to promote peace and non-violence through a variety of activities in collaboration with schools and community organizations. Musical and dance performances were offered by Divya Jain of Creations dance Academy, Monica Gajiwala and Neha Sha.

    Read the story here.

  • Noahides - the children of noah

    We welcomed Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Smith of Passaic on behalf of Ask Noah International to discuss the Noahides, or B'nei Noah--the Children of Noah.

    The Noahide movement is a life based on, or starting from, the so-called Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noah, the Seven Commandments for the Children of Noah. Derived from the Book of Genesis and elucidated in the Talmud and other traditional texts, the laws are, according to Jewish tradition, incumbent on all humanity. Though sometimes phrased and ordered differently, the Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noah are: (1) Do not worship false gods; (2) Do not murder; (3) Do not steal; (4) Do not be sexually immoral; (5) Do not eat a limb removed from a live animal; (6) Do not blaspheme; (7) Set up a court system. To Noahides, these seven laws are but a starting point, the foundation on which they've built a lifestyle of obligations and voluntary observances. While others drawn so intensely to Judaism would likely convert, these non-Jews have chosen to remain outside the fold, believing that life as a Noahide is an end in itself, a way to be partners--if not quite equals to the Chosen People--in the divine plan for the world. Unbeknownst to most Jews, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of Noahides, and most, are former Christians who've turned away from the faith. Noahides represent the first modern attempt to take that 2000-year-old body of theoretic writings and bring it to life as a worldwide movement.

    For more information click here.

  • the faces of mary

    We hosted an event entitled The Faces of Mary that explored the influence of Mary from the Protestant, Catholic and Muslim perspectives.  Reverend Fran Thiessen discussed Mary’s role in God’s plan as understood in the Protestant Faith.  Rev. Thiessen is the Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Norwood, NJ and currently serves as the Spiritual Director at Union Theological Seminary.  Father Philip Latronico discussed Mary’s role as Mother of God and Mother of the Church in the Catholic faith. Father Latronico is the Chaplain at the Community of God’s Love Parish in Rutherford. Dr. Nuray Yurt discussed Mary’s role as role model for Muslim women.  Dr. Yurt is the Director of Peace Islands Institute (Pll) formerly known as Interfaith Dialogue Center in Central Jersey. Her work at the Institute focuses around her passion about dialogue and action for a better community for all.

  • the jewish holidays of jesus

    We welcomed back Jennifer Seligman to discuss the season’s Jewish holidays that Jesus would have observed.  The presentation covered the relationship between the focus on repentance on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the shift on Sukkot to gratitude and joy.   Mrs. Seligman received her graduate degree from Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies. She is actively involved in the promotion of women's roles in Jewish Orthodox society as well as many Interfaith projects

  • jainism

    We welcomed Jain Guru His Holiness Amrender Muniji and Naresh Jain, trustee emeritus of the Council for Parliament of World Religions, advisor to the Board of the Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought and co-founder of International Jain Sangh.  Naresh Jain presented an overview of Jainism, one of India’s three ancient religions together with Hinduism and Buddhism which was also an influence on the nonviolent political movement of Mahatma Gandhi.  He described the roots of nonviolence in Jainism, and its modern-day relevance including the welfare of all beings and the care for the environment. The Jain Guru, His Holiness Amrender Muniji, conducted a brief session on Jain meditation and chanting of mantras.  Meditation and mantras or sounds are widely used for purification, protection, healing and awakening of divine powers.  This program also included a display of paintings by Jain children sponsored by the International Jain Sangh.

  • buddhism and meditation

    We welcomed Joshua and Diana Cutler of the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center for a program on Buddhism and Meditation.  The Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center is a (non-sectarian) Center dedicated to the study, practice, and preservation of Buddha’s teachings.  The Cutlers, along with a Tibetan Monk, provided an overview of Buddhism and highlighted several of Buddha’s teachings.  In addition, they discussed the Buddhist meditation techniques that aim to develop mindfulness, concentration, tranquility and insight along with the benefits of meditation and its role in other religions. 

    Read about the Buddhist Learning Center here.

  • newark museum tour

    We organized an interfaith docent lead tour at the Newark Museum which focused on the collections of the Arts of Asia exhibit and provided an opportunity to experience Buddhism, Confucius and Cult of Mao, Taoism and Tibetan Buddhism along with other galleries that present a spectrum of spiritual systems including Hinduism.  In addition, there was a Highlights Tour that explored the world masterpieces across the collections of Art of the Ancient Mediterranean, African, American and American Decorative Arts.

  • jewish traditions of jesus

       We welcomed Jennifer Seligman to discuss the Jewish traditions that Jesus would have practiced and their relevance to Jewish people today.   Mrs. Seligman received her graduate degree from Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies. She is actively involved in the promotion of women's roles in Jewish Orthodox society as well as many Interfaith projects 

  • sikhism

      We partnered with the Glen Rock Gurudwara Sikh Temple to present a unique educational opportunity for the community learn to about Sikhism.  Included in the formal program was a recitation of Mul Mantar which is the first composition of the Sikh Holy Book and the basis of Sikh theology, Shabad Kirtan devotional singing and a presentation on the Sikh religion and its commonalities with Christianity.  The program was be led by Harkishan Singh Jassal and Inderpal Singh Kohli.  Harkishan Singh Jassal is a Trustee of Glen Rock Gurudwara, New Jersey Director of the Sikh Council of Religion and Education and Zonal convener of the Hemkunt Foundation, an organization whose purpose is to instill Sikh ethics and values amongst Sikh children.  Inderpal Singh Kohli is a member of Glen Rock Sikh congregation and a Certified Sikh Presenter on behalf of the Sikh Coalition, an organization committed to spreading awareness about Sikhs and Sikh religion.

    Read about the Glen Rock Gurudwara Sikh Temple here.

  • the qur'an

    We partnered with the Interfaith Dialog Center (IDC) of New Jersey to present a unique educational opportunity for the community to read the Qur’an in an environment designed to promote respect and mutual understanding of all faiths and cultures.  Participants read the Qur’an from cover to cover over a period of 10 weeks and attended weekly one-hour discussions led by IDC experts on the assigned surahs (or chapters).  The sessions reviewed the week’s readings, explore similarities and differences with the Bible and fostered meaningful discussion.

    The program was offered multiple times.

    To learn more about the Peace Islands Institute (formerly the Interfaith Dialog Center), click here.