Oak Knoll’s Interfaith Prayer Service Promotes Unity and Mutual Respect

In keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving, Oak Knoll hosted its annual Upper School Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Service on Friday, November 17, 2023. The event brought together students, faculty, and staff of diverse faith backgrounds, including Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Presbyterianism, fostering an atmosphere of unity, understanding, and gratitude. Participants gave thanks for the blessings in their lives and prayed for peace and unity across all nations. Amid the prayers and moments of reflection, the service also continued the recent tradition of incorporating a Reflection on Land Acknowledgement — a way of showing respect and honoring the Indigenous Peoples of the land on which we work and live.

After opening remarks by Oak Knoll Campus Ministry Team Member and Theology Teacher Coleen Bradley, the prayer service incorporated reflections from several faith traditions, emphasizing why gratitude is essential to building a loving community. Each speaker brought their own dimension of God, prayer, and love — which beautifully set the tone for entering the Thanksgiving holiday.

The first speaker, Ms. Farah Hussein — the mother of alumnae Alysa Ali ’22 and Iman Ali ’23 and current student Simra Ali ’30 — is a practitioner of Islam and a student of Arabic and the Qur’an. She works with the “Anchor and Grow” series to guide individuals toward inner peace by exploring the teaching of the Qur’an.

Next, Rabbi Avi Friedman spoke. He is the Rabbi at the Jewish Community Center in Summit and has become an important presence in the Summit community through outreach programs. He is a member and president of the Summit Interfaith Clergy Council and a member of the Summit Anti-Racismsm Committee. 

Finally, we welcomed Ms. Anita Thani, aunt of current senior Nesa Shamdasani ’24. Ms. Thani is a practitioner of Hinduism and is one of the founding members of the Shirdi Sai Seva Asthaan Temple in West Orange. 

Following the service, Theology Teacher Lisa Durant said, “This wonderful gathering shows the similar threads of gratitude that run through the world’s faiths and how much we truly are brothers and sisters who are loved by the same God. We may call God by different names and worship differently, but what draws us to God is the desire to be loved by our Creator and love Him in return through our interaction and relationships with one another.”