Annual Children’s Sabbath Brings Together Communities of All Faiths


An ecumenical sabbath service celebrating children focuses on eradicating childhood poverty.

Religious leaders from all different backgrounds came together on Oct. 11 to call for an end to children’s poverty.

Leaders from the Jewish, Catholic, Christian, Islam, Mormon, Hindu, Buddhist and the Baha’I communities gathered at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul among about 550 people in attendance for the 22nd annual Children’s Sabbath.

The event included a multidenominational liturgy that related to issues affecting children. Each year focuses on a different issue, this year’s being children’s poverty.

Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, said the issue of children’s poverty is an important one and hits home because Philadelphia has one of the highest poverty rates of any major city in the country.

Sister Mary Scullion, co-founder of Project HOME and the keynote speaker, told the crowd that it is everyone’s obligation to ask with mercy and justice to meet the needs of every child.

“It rejuvenated my energy to continue to push for better services for children in our city and improve their lives,” Cooper said. “It also showed me that there’s a large community of people in Philadelphia who feel the same way.”

The event included several performances by local children’s choirs Keystone State Boychoir, Pennsylvania Girlchoir, Singing City Children’s Choir and the Archdiocesan Children’s Choir. Clergy leaders also read liturgy from their religious backgrounds relating to the cause.

This Sabbath is part of a larger organization, the National Observance of the Children’s Sabbaths, which is sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund.

Cooper noted that among the Jewish representatives at the event, many members of Congregation Rodeph Shalom were in attendance, among other synagogue members.

She said being a part of the Jewish community is a way to be part of a bigger family and community in Philadelphia that shares the same values of really caring for each other.

“I really do believe that our religious traditions call on us to be better people than we would be otherwise,” she said.

Rabbi Julie Greenberg, the leader of Leyv Ha-Ir-Heart of the City in Rittenhouse Square, was one of the many different faith leaders who read a passage.

She has also been involved with Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER) since its start four years ago, which forges bonds between religious leaders of all backgrounds.

Greenberg emphasized that supporting causes like this one is a part of the common good, which is also a Jewish moral understanding.

“Our Jewish prophets called on each and every person to be part of the solution,” she said. “I think the Jewish community really has a, as the pope calls it, ‘intergenerational solidarity.’ We understand the meaning of l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation, and that we have a moral commitment to the next generation to make sure it’s educated — and every single child is included in that opportunity.”

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