A multifaith community welcomes all


As a multicultural and multifaith region, Long Island boasts an abundance of churches, synagogue and mosques, some of which date back to colonial times. One religious community that identifies with all of them is the Brookville Multifaith Campus, a nonprofit organization that celebrates the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths that comprise the Abrahamic religions.

Originally known as the Brookville Church, the organization was founded in 1732, and until the Civil War it conducted all of its services in Dutch, highlighting the county’s Dutch origins. In the early 2000s the church leaders began to develop closer relations with the growing Jewish-Christian community, made up of families with parents who grew up in different faiths.

This group formed the Interfaith Community of Long Island in 2005, with the goal of building “a multifaith community of people from different faiths who connect to one another by embracing similarities while celebrating differences.”

Irene Fallonbogen, the cantor of the New Synagogue of Long Island, one of the directors of education for the interfaith community and one half of an interfaith marriage, said that teaching children about both sides of their religious heritage gives them a richer faith experience and ensures that cultural and religious traditions are passed down to the next generation.

“It provides a learning experience for the kids, and teaches them to really experience and enjoy both so that 

they don’t have to choose one or the other,” Fallonbogen said. “So it’s really more about, you know, finding the common ground instead of the differences, so the kids can feel at peace.”

Vicky Eastland, Brookville’s pastor since 2012, explained that the organization holds services for the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths on each of their Sabbaths (Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively). It also holds interfaith weddings, funerals and other events to promote understanding among the various religious communities.

Eastland added that the multifaith nature of the church has grown over the years, as more and more people on Long Island and across the country have continued to marry outside of their religion. By opening up services to this wider community, she said, all of the faiths have grown stronger because of it.

“This work that we do is intentional, and it’s a commitment that we’ve made that has really provided this recipe for multifaith and cross-cultural friendships to develop,” Eastland said. “Each faith group maintains its own religious identity, but our campus fosters an open environment for learning and celebrating and honoring each distinct religion.”

In addition to Eastland, religious leaders from the Muslim Reform Movement and the New Synagogue of Long Island also lead services at the campus, and offer religious education to members of their faiths as well as non-members who are interested in learning more.

Scott Matous, the rabbi for the New Synagogue, highlighted how important it was for the three groups to syncretize the educational aspects of their faiths while maintaining the uniqueness and traditions of each. He added that the New Synagogue, originally founded by Rabbi Stuart Paris in the early 2010s, was formed with the goal of “creating institutions and working to bridge understanding between religions.”

“We focus on what we have in common, not on the theological differences we have, and build bridges and build a community,” Matous explained. “The beauty is, whichever person is on the Jewish side, as well as on whatever the other religion is, they don’t have to give up who they are, the family culture, and they have a way to bridge both of their faiths, both of their identities.”

The Muslim Reform Movement has also been a key part of the multifaith campus since 2002, when it began holding Quranic studies at the Brookville Church. Sultan Abdulhameed, a co-founder of the movement, noted that since then, the groups have only grown closer, and now hold Friday prayers there as well.

Abdulhameed added that the goal of the reform movement was to challenge some of what he believed were the outdated traditions of Islam, including services that were conducted in Arabic, and relegating women to standing at the back of the mosque during Friday services. He said that history is replete with the dangers of not understanding others of different groups, and that working together strengthens the entire religious community.

“So in the three religions, everybody believes in God, all three teach the merits of charity, all teach love for people, and so on,” Abdulhameed said. “One very important and wonderful feature of the multifaith campus is that although each denomination practices their own religion, our doors are always open, so people from one religion can go and see and participate in the sessions and prayers of another.”