Pre-Thanksgiving turkey giveaway reaches out to all faiths

Photo by Chris Sykes
Pastor Jerry Smith of Christian Pentecostal Church, center, stands with, from left, New Jersey State Police chaplain Rabbi Abe Friedman and his associate, Willy Pilku, on Tuesday, Nov. 20, during Mayor Tony Vauss’ annual turkey giveaway outside the Municipal Building.

IRVINGTON, NJ — People of varying backgrounds came out in support of the pre-Thanksgiving turkey giveaway Mayor Tony Vauss and Municipal Council hosted in front of the Municipal Building on Tuesday, Nov. 20.

“I work with all faith-based communities that came out here to distribute some turkeys together with my partner, Willy Pilku, who is an amazing person,” said New Jersey State Police chaplain Rabbi Abe Friedman on Tuesday, Nov. 20. “What we do is we try to make people happy during the holidays, which is such an important time people spend with their families and their children. It’s so important when we see people smile, walking away with a turkey, thanks to the great mayor and the council and the pastor and all people of faith. We are privileged to be able to stand here with Irvington and make sure people have a great holiday.”

Pilku, of Brooklyn, N.Y., echoed Friedman’s sentiments about coming together to help one another during the holidays.

“I give a lot of support to the rabbi and to the community. He reached out to me about a Thanksgiving event that the mayor is doing for the community of Irvington and I gladly gave my support to it,” said Pilku on Tuesday, Nov. 20. “I’m on the board of the Met Council, which is a Jewish organization that donates food to the community throughout the year and, for Thanksgiving, the Met Council is donating 150 packages for families in the Bronx at a (New York City Housing Authority) housing building that was severely infested with rodents, and the Met Council is coming in because all of the food had to go in the garbage, because they fumigated the building. So the Met Council came in with fresh food for Thanksgiving, with turkey, canned food, all types of stuff, so that they can have a nice holiday meal.”

Friedman said all the world’s major religions emphasize charity and service to those in need, especially during the shared holiday season, so it was only right to come to Irvington for the turkey giveaway.

“We are all the human race and that’s so important that we make sure, no matter who you are, which faith you are, which god you worship or how you worship, we are here standing under one nation, one god, and making sure that people live a peaceful, loving and enjoyable life, and a special holiday blessing,” Friedman said. “I just wish to thank the mayor and the pastor and all the good people that were involved here today.”

Pastor Jerry Smith, of the Christian Pentecostal Church, said the feeling was mutual.

“We’re taught to love everybody. God don’t see color. He sees the color of blood. We love everybody,” said Smith on Tuesday, Nov. 20. … That’s what ministry is all about: Loving one another and helping one another.”

Smith said that’s especially the case during the holiday season, when emotions run high for everyone.

“At this time of year, a lot of people are hurting, because we’re going through the holidays. You have memories of folks who are not around, family members who are not around. So we just try to bring some type of joy to their heart in times like these,” Smith said. “Also, on Sunday, Nov. 18, we were down at Penn Station. We fed 500 people at Penn Station. We gave away hats, scarves and gloves. So we’re doing what we can do, trying to help somebody along the way as we make our way.”

“I’m just happy for these guys for their help, their support,” said Smith, while hugging Friedman and Pilku. “That’s what it’s all about, peace and love. We’re just happy, man, to be here, to be a part of it. The Bible says: ‘What you have done for the least of us, then you’ve done it unto us.’ That’s what we’re all about, man.”

Erica Campbell and Jack Szala were among the people who took home a free turkey on Tuesday, Nov. 20, and they said they were glad for the good will in Irvington.

“I think it’s a great experience for him to give out turkeys in terms of the community,” said Campbell on Tuesday, Nov. 20.

Szala said it was great to see people from different faiths coming together for a common cause.

“The rabbi donated the turkeys,” said Szala on Tuesday, Nov. 20. “It was alright. I’ve been here four years in Irvington and this was nice.”

Vauss said the turkey giveaway was just another aspect of his administration’s “One team one dream” motto.

“As part of our commitment in bringing our community together, we decided to give out over 160 turkeys in front of the Municipal Building,” said Vauss on Sunday, Nov. 25. “A special thanks to Councilwoman at large Renee Burgess, Pastor Jerry Smith and Rabbi Abe Friedman for participating and supporting this event. Another commitment is continuing to make Irvington strong.”