We were blessed with perfect weather on July 10 when tables from 26 different groups filled the Morristown Green. We stayed cool under the shade of a tent brought by Lew Stone. It looked like a web of metal rods, but it expanded into a 10×10-foot structure. It drew quite a crowd when our crew took it down at the end of the day. But at 8 a.m., while Lew and Bill Neigher set it up, our neighboring table had about eight people setting up an identical structure.

Our table, a joint project of our NCJW Section and the Morristown Jewish Center–Beit Yisrael, was in an alcove of the Green with the Islamic Center of Morris County, and Centro Biblico, a church that boasts members from 28 different Hispanic countries. Centro Biblico set up their tent, and then started teaching their volunteers how to make balloon animals for visitors who would come later in the day. There was a lot of popping and giggling going on. They invited me to join them for breakfast—bagels and cream cheese. Then they came over to our table and read every quote in our display.

Our theme this year was “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself,” with quotes from Leviticus, Hillel, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, and Eli Wiesel. Many people read the quotes and respectfully commented how much they enjoyed them. Every year we have a craft at our table. This year, people could paste one of Hillel’s quotes onto colored paper and decorate it to put on their refrigerators. The children enjoyed it and the parents enjoyed helping their kids. 

Visitors started coming to our table well before the festival began. They were curious about all the activity early on a Sunday morning. The day officially began at 11:00 with an interfaith service. Rabbi Robert Green of the Basking Ridge Jewish Center, the Reverend Luana Cook Scott of the United Methodist Church, and Dr. Ali Chaudry from the Islamic Center of Basking Ridge all spoke about the pain of the Covid pandemic and the gun violence epidemic, and the need to heal and move forward with hope. After the service, the tables were open for business. There was plenty of live music, including the MPAC children’s chorus. The Ecuadorian dancers were spectacular, and the whirling dervish was mesmerizing.

What is a festival without food? Becca Gallick-Mitchell coordinated a literal tasting of cultures representing the diversity of the Morris County area. She prepared signs describing each of the many foods served. We donated rugelach. Some of the other samplings included Bricadeiro (Brazilian chocolate truffle), Mango with Chamoy (Mexican street food) and Oi Muchim (Korean spicy cucumber salad). Everything was delicious and given to visitors free of charge.

It was wonderful to see people in person after far too long just seeing squares of faces on zoom screens. Everyone had a wonderful time.

Thank you to Lewis Stone and Bill Neigher for table setup and breakdown. Thank you to Becca Gallick-Mitchell, Daniela DeFinis and Anne Gorman on the food committee. Thank you to our table hosts Rita Gotfried, Kay Salzman, Alan Salzman, Helen Jacobson, Jason Navarino, Melanie Levitan, Alan Levitan, Jeffrey Grayzel, Ira Hammer, Sue Salsberg and John Salsberg for being table hosts. Everyone was remarkable ambassadors for our Jewish community.

Susan Neigher