Inter-Faith Council
of Greater Hollywood
Working for the brotherhood/sisterhood of people

HISTORY


Researching the archives of Inter-Faith, one can find dates of events and names of participants but those facts don't tell the whole story. A look at the photographs gives another dimension: people laughing, working together, eating together, praying together. It is not obvious from the photos which congregation anyone is from, but it is obvious that they care about one another. The letters saved from 1974, the first year of Inter-Faith Council, tell us that it was not always easy to bring anyone together. And a note regarding a program in 1976 says "Best publicity we ever received, and program was cancelled due to lack of response." That didn't stop Sandi Khani, Rabbi Frazin, Elaine Pittell, Sal Oliveri and others from pushing on.

Religious leaders of the different faiths in the greater Hollywood area founded the Inter-Faith Council of Greater Hollywood in 1974. It happened when the Kiwanis Club cancelled their annual Brotherhood-Sisterhood program. Mayor David Keating, Elaine Pittell and others reached out to various members of the religious and lay community to form this Council. The group was established for the purpose of fostering greater mutual understanding and respect among all faiths with Mayor Keating as founding Chairman.

Inter-Faith was established on September 23, 1975, and has proven to be an integral part of our community. It has been responsible for formulating and facilitating many beneficial activities that have enhanced the community of southern Broward. The group has sponsored many spirited dialogues featuring prominent spiritual leaders. The first was on October 24, 1975, when the Rev. Bill Vassey, Rabbi Robert Frazin, and Father Edward Moan spoke on "Understanding Your Neighbor." This dialogue focused on universal understanding and inclusiveness of God. Some other noted dialogues of the early years were about the juxtaposition of important social issues and religious ideology. For example, in the winter of 1976, the Council hosted a forum that discussed the freedom of Soviet Jews. Here, two clergymen from Westside Baptist Church and Temple Solel, both prominent members of the Inter-Faith Council, brought light to the plight of the Soviet Jew.

Other early forums of the Inter-Faith Council dealt with the merger of many different faiths into society and strived for the harmony of all people despite religious ignorance. Such complex issues in these forums were often lightened by the music of various religious choirs and singers like the Star of Bethlehem Church Gospel Singers, Cantor Phyllis Cole, and the Nativity Adult Choir.

At times the Council found little need for promotion as it attracted many religious faiths. Membership grew rapidly and with new members arriving, so did their families. In response to this surge, social events arose and the family unit found themselves in the forefront. In the spring of 1979, Inter-Faith Council sponsored their first picnic on Memorial Day. This potluck style gathering proved to be an exciting family affair with soccer games, baseball, and water activities. The Thanksgiving Luncheon in 1979 at Nativity Parish hall was also a success as once again the families were brought together in religious unity for a glorious meal. On Christmas of the same year and for many years after, a Chanukah and Christmas party was hosted at Eleanor Handleman's home with the invocations given by Rabbi Ben Romer and Rev. Stuart Austin. Notable luncheons included the Brotherhood-Sisterhood luncheon, a celebration of unity and love. This annual luncheon usually gathers upwards of 300 people and garners the issuance of a proclamation by the Hollywood city commission declaring February Brotherhood -Sisterhood month. "Brotherhood and the respect for each person's beliefs have been the cornerstone of the founding fathers of the United States of America…"

In times of turmoil and national duress, Inter-Faith rallied, expressing its concerns for conflicts such as the 50 American hostages held in Iran. On Dec 12, 1979, the Council held a prayer meeting for the release of the hostages, officiated by a dynamic group of religious leaders and embraced by the 300 gathered on the steps of the Hollywood City Hall.

The 80s arrived in fitting form and the momentum of picnics and family gatherings were right in step. Picnics not only enhanced family unity, but also proved to be ideal for announcing new members of the Council in addition to acknowledging long time members. On June 27, 1981, Father Madigan was honored for his services from 1980-81, and in September, Dr. Ira Sheir was honored posthumously for serving 3 years as executive secretary, replaced by Rabbi Harold Richter.

The media received Inter-Faith well and the Council was written up in many interesting articles. The press reported everything from insightful coverings of the program on cults aimed at high school and college students, to the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish cohesion session. Other press articles reflected public thanks for the effort of the Council.
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The Brotherhood-Sisterhood luncheon of 1981 was facilitated by Rev. Lloyd White and was entitled "People working together for a better world," and the Thanksgiving service was held at First Baptist Church, concluding with a traditional dinner. The 5th Annual Brotherhood-Sisterhood luncheon in 1983 was entitled, "Brotherhood in the Neighborhood," and was given by Dr. Abraham Fischler, president of Nova University. Many of the year's activities were of public interest, like the Concert in Young Circle given by the Archdiocese of Miami, Broward Ministerial Association, Jewish Community Centers of South Broward and the City of Hollywood. In addition to that year's activities, many reflected the Council in a positive public light, most notably the Christmas and Chanukah displays prepared by the children of Inter-Faith. Children of church schools displayed a Christmas display and children of area Temples prepared a Jewish display for viewing at the Hollywood Mall. Temple Solel's singers enhanced this feature and it proved to be a declaration of the interfaith message during the holiday season.

The organization celebrated its tenth anniversary at Hollywood Hills United Methodist church. Archbishop Edward Mc McCarthy addressed a crowd who represented the Council's many faiths and alliances. A highlight of the evening was the accolade given Mayor David Keating for his dedication and for being the first president of the group. The night was capped off by a special musical performance, and past presidents Sal Oliveri and Shandi presented a nostalgic look at the past ten years of Inter-Faith activity in the community.

The 1986 and 1987 Brotherhood-Sisterhood luncheons were both a success with the 1987 luncheon gathering notoriety for its eclectic taste for food and venue of Bavarian Village Restraint. The tradition of eating lunch and celebrating was not limited to Inter-Faith members but flowed into its community activities. In the tradition of giving, Inter-Faith coordinated splendid food drives. A staple soup kitchen at St. Johns Episcopal Church served 50 lunches a day to the homeless, hungry men, women and children. Most of the fare was fulfilling if not gourmet according to Sal Oliveri. "It's as good as you get in any restaurant," he said as he twirled a pasta around his plastic fork. "Actually, I was a little disappointed. When you come to a soup kitchen you expect soup, but they get a little gourmet today." The success of the soup kitchen gathered financial support from many churches and religious organization in the area and by December of that year, the numbers rose to 90 lunches per day, mostly in part to those donations. By June of 1988 the lunches rose to 110 per day on average and in 1989, the soup kitchen underwent a name change. The Jubilee Soup Kitchen ribbon cutting ceremony was held with meals reaching 550 per week. Along with feeding the hungry, Inter-Faith Council addressed the homeless issue and in October of 1989, drafted its plan to open a homeless shelter in Hollywood. Though controversial and difficult, the Inter-Faith never lost its drive to remedy the homeless situation.
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By 1989, the Council evolved and saw great importance of travel in the quest for spiritual roots. Along with other organizations, it sponsored an 11-day trip to Israel. This trip was planned to improve relations between Jews and non-Jews. It was intended for others to see Israel's Christian and Moslem sites that Jews don't get to normally see. "It will give us a better appreciation of how a non-Jew looks at Israel," said tour leader Rabbi Richter.

Inter-Faith also recognized the importance of youth and founded programs that gave the community's youth good orderly direction. The Inter-Faith Youth Awareness Committee strove to identify problems of our youth and propose possible solutions to those issues. The Committee was fortunate enough to find Officer Recio of the Hollywood Police Department, who worked closely with the organization and was able to put teenagers in constructive work places. He helped guide students through counseling and comprehensive follow-ups with some of their newly appointed work duties. Other youth programs in 1989 taught business skills. A prominent organization affiliated with the Inter-Faith was the Liberia Economic and Social Development, Inc. LES was responsible for the education and placement of youth in work environments that would groom them for future success in the career workplace.

Inter-Faith Council also recognized the vulnerabilities of today's youth and held discussions on substance abuse. On September 21, 1989, the panel hosted a forum, which included school counselors specializing in substance abuse. Not only were these problems addressed head on; reciprocally solutions were issued as well. More emphasis was placed on youth job programs and once again, its committee sprung into action generating constructive activities like environmental clean ups, one of which lifted 5.2 tons of trash from local neighborhoods. This unprecedented task was expedited on November 4, 1989, and was mobilized with 48 middle school and high school students.
  P.O. Box 7133, Hollywood, Florida 33081