From the Archives: My House Shall Be a House Of Prayer For All

By Lynne Schreiber
From Moment Magazine, December 2005

One day last summer, as my friend Katie and I sat beneath an umbrella at a sidewalk café sipping coffee, I mentioned that I needed a quote for a talk I was to give on spirituality in America at my Orthodox shul. Katie, whom I’d met at a poetry seminar in college before I became observant, lit up. “Rabbi Levy said something once about God being in the silence,” she said. “You should ask him for the source.”

It took me a moment to remember why Katie, a member of an Episcopalian parish in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was quoting a rabbi. Her church, St. Clare of Assisi, shares a sanctuary with a Reform synagogue, Temple Beth Emeth. Once a year, Beth Emeth’s rabbi, Robert Levy, delivers a sermon to St. Clare’s parishioners, and Katie, who is as drawn to the spiritual as I am, absorbs nearly every word.

I called Levy, and he knew exactly what Katie was talking about: a reference in Kings to Eliyahu experiencing God’s presence on the mountain as “a still small voice.” I wove the quote into my speech, which I gave before a pin-drop crowd, delighted that my non-Jewish friend had helped me to better understand my heritage—simply because she attended a congregation whose building, like our friendship, transcended religion.

In the wake of two millennia of Christian persecution and forced conversions, the Jewish taboo against praying in churches remains potent. It’s one of those things that many Jews, religious or not, just don’t do. Certainly, in the Modem Orthodox Jewish world in which I live—and in the far less-modem reaches of the Orthodox world—there are many for whom such an idea is unthinkable. My religious peers would first consult a rabbi and likely be told that they should never step foot in a church, let alone in a synagogue whose bimah doubles as a Christian altar.

One morning, as my husband stays home with our two young children, I arrive, notebook and pen in hand, at Temple Beth Emeth. The Temple and St Clare share a building that is set back from the street by a courtyard shaded by leafy green trees and surrounded by cascading gardens. A tall black metal cross stands in the ground out front beside an equally tall black metal Star of David.

I enter through smoky glass doors and wander hallways lit by skylights. When I reach the synagogue offices, I find the rabbi, a diminutive man whose cheeky grin and bald head give him the look of a yogic healer. Levy, who arrived at Beth Emeth in 1984 about a decade after it set up house with St. Clare, takes me slowly back through the halls to the sanctuary.

Sunlight flows into the octagonal room through tall windows. On the bimah, Cantor Annie Rose stands beside a girl in shorts reading from the Torah in preparation for her bat mitzvah. Behind them, two of the bimah’s six cherry wood doors are open, revealing the Ark with its carefully placed Torahs and a tapestry woven with the words “Blessed is the one who trusts in Adonai…who shall be like a tree planted in water, it has no fear in a year of drought, it does not cease to yield fruit.”

The room, which was designed by both congregations and added onto the building after years of living together, looks much like any other attractive modern Jewish sanctuary. But as soon as the bat mitzvah lesson is over and the cantor and student have left, Levy strolls across the bimah, closes the Ark doors and opens two others. A big burnished metal cross that had been hidden within is revealed. Presto: The sanctuary is a church.

I find this transformation fascinating but question whether any of this is kosher. Levy assures me that there is no reason why Jews and Christians cannot use the same room for prayer. “The Torah’s sanctity can’t be ruined,” he explains. “Is my Star of David diminished because it is in the room where the cross is? They are not out at the same time; it’s not an amalgam of symbols.”

I nod, but I wonder what my rabbi would think.

The courtship between Beth Emeth and St. Clare began three years after Beth Emeth broke away from the town’s only Conservative synagogue. At first, as is the case with most new congregations, its members met in homes and rented rooms. In 1969, when Beth Emeth had grown to 60 families, St. Clare invited the synagogue to rent. One secretary worked for both congregations, and on her desk sat two phones. She answered one, “Shalom, Temple Beth Emeth,” and the other, “Hello, St. Clare of Assisi.”

Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, and the two congregations had much in common. “The demographics were almost identical: 85 percent academics, 10 percent doctors and lawyers, and five percent businesspeople,” says Rabbi Bruce Warshal, a former civil rights attorney with a passion for politics, who led Beth Emeth during this period. “They were both highly sophisticated, highly educated congregations. Also, not overly rich.” The congregations agreed on social justice; they fought poverty, discrimination and the Vietnam War together.

In the mid-1970s, the church made a proposal to Beth Emeth. “They essentially said to us that the relationship had worked very well and suggested making it permanent,” says Marilyn Scott, a dynamic longtime member and former Beth Emeth president. Beth Emeth’s mem¬bers were intrigued. They were ready for a building, yet concerned about the costs. Because of their limited means and commitment to community service, they were attracted to the money-saving benefits of building sharing.

Scott had joined Temple Beth Emeth so that her children would experience a Judaism that was distinct from what she calls her own “bagels and lox” upbringing. For her, the congregation’s decision to accept St. Clare’s proposal was an added attraction. She and many other congregants felt that it was one way that they could help to change the world for the better.

Born just before World War II began, she remembers the confusion she felt as a child in New York, watching Holocaust survivors arrive from Europe with numbers tattooed on their arms.

“There were Holocaust survivors and others in the congregation who felt that, given the way the world had treated Jews, it wasn’t safe to trust Christians,” Scott remembers. “I felt it was important to try. In a world that had experienced the Holocaust, it was necessary to show that Jews and Christians could trust each other in this profound way.”

Beth Emeth effectively purchased half of St. Clare’s building and together the two congregations founded Genesis of Ann Arbor, a non-profit whose sole purpose was to manage the shared house for the two faiths. “It was helpful to us that there was no Christian iconography in the building’s design,” says Scott. “It was a physical space that could just as easily be used as a synagogue.”

The new permanent relationship worked, says Warshal, who now leads a congregation of retirees in Florida. “Our rubbing shoulders with them made us more Jewish and made them more Christian.”

After more than two decades and turnovers in leadership, the two congregations continue to share nearly everything that is non-spiritual—including classrooms, the social hall, the kitchen and the custodial staff. The biggest disparity is in the size of the congregations. Beth Emeth is the only Reform synagogue in Ann Arbor and currently has 720 families while St. Clare, one of the town’s five Episcopal churches, has 230. But both congregations remain committed to making their partnership work. The relationship expands beyond infrastructure: Jews and Christians continue to fight for social justice together. In 2004, when gay marriage was on the ballot in Michigan, Beth Emeth and St. Clare showed their support by erecting a billboard that said, “Be Just, Love Decency”—an allusion to the biblical injunction in Micah 6:8 to “do justice and love kindness.”

But togetherness has its limits. In addition to separate offices, each congregation maintains one religious space of its own. Levy takes me into the Jewish chapel, which is shaped like a half moon and is awash in colorful rays of light from stained glass windows depicting stars, heavens and the seven species. On the back wall is a carved-wood yahrtzeit board designed to look like Jerusalem’s Old City. Outside in the courtyard stands St. Clare’s chapel, a 24-capacity stucco cottage. The body of Inez Wisdom, the woman who willed the land to the church, is interred in the floor.

When it comes to religious practice, there is no mistaking this partnership for so-called messianic synagogues that blur the line between Christianity and Judaism. Some years ago, a woman called Beth Emeth, asking, “Is this the churchagogue?” Levy thumbed through the yellow pages, thinking the caller had asked for “Church of God,” until he realized the caller thought the congregations combined Judaism and Christianity. “I said, ‘You’ve got this all wrong.’ There is a definite need to keep things separate.”

Levy and Reverend James Rhodenhiser, the current St. Clare pastor, host a joint Thanksgiving service each year and exchange annual sermons, which is how Katie came to hear Levy speak of “God being in the silence.” But on a week-to-week basis, says Levy, neither pastor wants members to attend both services. Youth groups and all other social and reli¬gious gatherings are completely separate, and Levy and Rhodenheiser refuse to co-officiate at marriage ceremonies. The relationship makes it easy for intermarried families to feel comfortable there, but in all cases they are families who live either Jewish lives or Episcopalian lives. They don’t straddle the two.

Occasionally, intermarried couples inquire whether they can join the two congregations at once. “I tell them, ‘No,” says Levy. “That’s not what we’re about.”

The oldest cohabiting friendship I discovered between a Jewish and a Christian congregation thrives outside Washington, DC, in Bethesda, Maryland, where the independent Bethesda Jewish Congregation shares a building with Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church. The synagogue began renting from the church in 1967, and in 2001 the two congregations designed and built a new addition. The hexagon-shaped wing includes two sanctuaries, a larger one used mostly by the church and a smaller one used mostly by the synagogue, and incorporates a Star of David pattern formed by diametrically connected vertices and echoed in the angles of the roof. The building’s name—Covenant Hall—was chosen by both congregations from a quote from Jeremiah 31:33, and also alludes to a covenant signed between the two congre¬gations in 1992 that is displayed in the building: “We wish to acknowledge and celebrate commonalities and differences. We see this relationship as a living exam¬ple of understanding and respect among people of different heritage.”

“I think we’ve created a model of interfaith appreciation and tolerance,” says Sunny Schnitzer, the hazzan who has led the congregation since 2001. “This world sorely needs more of that.” The arrangement also makes good economic sense for the 200-family Bethesda Jewish, which agreed to cover 15 percent of the costs of Covenant Hall and now pays $70,000 annually for its part of the mortgage and finance charges. The low overhead allows Bethesda Jewish to free up money for other uses. “I think we were very wise to beat the ‘edifice complex’,” says Schnitzer. “Religious groups tend to feel that having their own building somehow ties a permanence and gravitas to the congregation’s existence. Our congregation doesn’t feel that way. Rather than building funds or campaigns to renovate and expand every few years, we’re able to focus our dollars and our energy on the community. Even when we built Covenant Hall with the church, 10 percent of the money we raised went toward the National Center for Children and Families, a homeless center up the road.”

An hour from Toronto, in Waterloo, Ontario, another congregation has settled into permanent cohabitation with a church. Like the Bethesda Jewish Congregation, Temple Shalom designed and built a house of worship with a Christian congregation, in this case the Protestant Westminster United Church.

The relationship came about as a result of a backyard conversation between neighbors who realized that both congregations longed for permanent quarters. “We weren’t in a financial position to have a building of our own, and the church very much wanted to do something like this for environmental, outreach and financial reasons,” recalls Bob Chodos, who was president of the lay-led Reform synagogue at the time. The Temple held services in rooms borrowed from universities, hotels, homes and church basements.

After a design process that involved both congregations (under the guidance of an architect, they each built their ideal worship space out of Shredded Wheat and jelly beans), their shared building, called The Cedars, opened its doors in 1996. Its two sun-lit sanctuaries are separated by a wall that can be removed when either congregation needs more space. There are no permanent Christian symbols in the larger Christian worship space: Crosses are brought in by procession. Jewish symbols are also subdued. The Ark is very plain and the bimah is a simple wooden platform; the only decorated elements are the parokhet, or doors over the Ark, on which readings from Jeremiah 17:7-8 are etched into rice paper and metal. “Temple Shalom,” says Geoffrey Simmins, a professor at the University of Calgary who specializes in 19th and 20th century architectural history and has written about The Cedars, “is an architecturally neutral vessel, a place where sacredness is defined by activities taking place there, and not by any preconceived notion of grandeur or sacredness.”

At first, the tiny, financially-strapped Temple entered into a lease arrangement with the church. But two years ago, after its membership grew to 70 families, the synagogue became part owner, says Cho-dos. “I know it was an important statement for the church and it was important for us, too,” he says. “The Kitchener-Waterloo region is largely populated by postwar German immigrants. The Jewish population is small and always felt somewhat isolated and beleaguered. So it was a statement that we wanted to create a new kind of relationship between Christians and Jews.”

While fewer than a handful of congregations have designed and built houses of worship with churches, many more have rental relationships. Some rent space full-time, others for the High Holidays. Synagogues also rent to churches: In Anaheim, California, for instance, Conservative Temple Beth Emet is Emanuel Roumanian Pentecostal Church’s landlord.

Nearly every such relationship arose from practical needs, says David Kaufman, an associate professor of American Jewish Studies on the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College. Fledgling congregations typically start out borrowing or renting space, sometimes from churches. Most move on once they can afford their own building since the vast majority of congregations find that having a building dedicated to their own community best serves their needs. Mature congregations may rent due to population surges, space constraints and financial limitations.

Inevitably, as with any relationship, some transcend pure economics. For more than a decade the independent Congregation Bnai Jeshurun in Manhattan has held services at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew. The congregation’s relationship with the United Methodist church began in 1991, when the roof of Bnai Jeshurun’s synagogue collapsed. “The church opened its doors and said, ‘Worship here,’ says Rabbi Felicia Sol of Bnai Jeshurun. The two religious communities bonded almost immediately. In order to cover paintings of angels that hung in the church, the two congregations raised a banner, inspired by Psalm 133, that reads, “How good it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in harmony.” While they were creating the banner, recalls Reverend James Karpen of St. Paul and St. Andrew, the Jewish choir taught the Christians to sing “Hinei Ma Toy.” The banner was meant to go up before Shabbat services, then be taken down for Christian services, but it has never been removed. “It became a symbol,” says Karpen, “of who we are together.”

Even after Bnai Jeshurun’s own building reopened in 1996, the growing congregation decided to maintain the relationship. “We hold two different simultaneous Friday night services, one in our own building and one in the church,” says Sol. “And our Shabbat morning services are too large for our own building, so we hold them in the church.”

Bnai Jeshurun is committed to maintaining this relationship. “When we came into their space, we launched a number of interfaith programs,” says Sol. “We have classes together. We run a homeless shelter together. Whenever we’re seeking to build relationships in the community, we’re each other’s first partner.” Unlike Temple Beth Emeth and St. Clare, Bnai Jeshurun and St. Paul and St Andrew go out of their way to accommodate interfaith couples. “We actually have some couples where one is Christian and one is Jewish and they jointly belong to both congregations,” says Sol.

Across the country in Irvine, California, University Synagogue is yet another example of a congregation that has developed a close bond with a church after sharing worship space. Its leader, Rabbi Arnold Rachlis, says he found “an interfaith soulmate” in minister Fred Plumer of the United Church of Christ. “Plumer felt that a synagogue in his church would expose his congregants to the Jewish roots of their faith,” Rachlis says, “and we never had to worry about symbolism on the walls.”

In 2004, after five years, the space-sharing arrangement came to an end when the Reconstructionist synagogue outgrew the church and dedicated its own synagogue, three miles down the road. Although University Synagogue enjoys having its own building, the relationship between synagogue and church remains vital: The two congregations continue to hold a joint Thanksgiving service and adult education programs.

The next challenge, says Rachlis, will be for a Jewish congregation to create a meaningful partnership with a Muslim congregation. While they shared the same building, University Synagogue and United Church of Christ did invite a Muslim congregation to join them in the hopes of finding a “third soul mate.” Although the Muslims still hold services in the church, the group wasn’t as liberal as its religious housemates and a true partnership did not evolve. Nevertheless, says Rachlis, “we liked the idea of the mosque for the symbolism.” Sharing worship space, says Rachlis, is a living embodiment of the Book of Isaiah: “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.”

That Jews share religious space with Christians was once truly unimaginable. During much of Christian history, Jews were scorned, cast out and blamed for the death of Jesus Christ, and Jews were welcome in churches only as converts. Even in contemporary America this remained etched in the Jewish psyche. “As a boy,” Brooklyn-born Yossi Klein Halevi writes in his 2001 book, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden, “I was reluctant even to walk past a church, fearing that grasping hands might emerge from the massive doors and drag me into the basement, where priests would kidnap me and force me to become a Christian.”

Many Jews, of course, found living in a land that prided itself on its religious freedom to be liberating and worked to create the foundation of a new relationship with Christians. The idea of sharing worship space with a church, however, remained largely out-of-reach until Vatican II. The Catholic Church’s landmark Nostra Aetate in 1965 not only absolved Jews of the blame for Jesus’s crucifixion but encouraged Catholics to embrace Jews as spiritual brethren who first recognized the relationship with God. It was a major turning point since most Christian persecution of Jews had arisen out of Catholic blood libel theology. Other major Christian denominations followed suit, recognizing Judaism, and in some cases, apologizing for past actions.

But even at a time when most Christian groups no longer consider it their sacred duty to convert Jews, successful sharing of religious space requires both partners to be on the liberal end of the religious spectrum. Most politically and socially conservative Jews, despite being pulled towards an alliance with evangelical Christians because of their shared values and support of Israel, do not share worship space. “This kind of relationship wouldn’t work with every Jewish sect, just as it wouldn’t work with every Christian sect,” says Schnitzer, the hazzan of Bethesda Jewish. “With modern Presbyterians and liberal Jews in particular, it happens to be a good shidduch.”

David Blewett, a Christian scholar and executive director of the ecumenical Dove Institute in Southfield, Michigan, agrees. “Shared-space arrangements work best when the Christian partners are mainline Protestants,” he says, not those dedicated to seeking converts. There are exceptions. In 1999, the Reform congregation of Kol Ami, located just outside of Dallas, outgrew its classroom space. For four years Kol Ami held its Sunday school classes in the more spacious building owned by its neighbor, the First Baptist Church. Intrigued by the partnership, Minister David Williams and his church members proposed a series of joint Bible study classes for adults. “It worked out pretty darn well,” says Kol Ami’s Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis. “What we did was we had an agreement. When we did adult education, everyone spoke from their own heart. We told everyone to tell it like you believe it It was remarkable. I was constantly surprised at David. He found it a very enlightening experience. After the first session he came away and said, ‘This is very challenging for me. This is the first time I have been asked to teach rather than preach.’ He got it after that first session.”

In some cases, Jewish congregations have been known to meet in Catholic churches, although Catholicism’s emphasis on iconography and ritualistic objects makes these arrangements more challenging. In Boone, North Carolina, a small Appalachian town where no synagogue building exists, Jewish residents hold High Holiday services in the church of the Catholic parish of Saint Elizabeth of the Hill Country. In 1999, the church hung a permanent Star of David sun-catcher in one of its windows to make its annual Jewish guests feel more at home.

Shared-space partnerships are not always easy. The Bethesda Jewish Congregation faced a particularly divisive issue last year when the American Presbyterian Church voted to divest from companies that do business with Israel. Schnitzer, along with most of his congregants, opposed the divestment plan, while many members of Bradley Hills Presbyterian supported it “The Christian population in the West Bank is at stake here,” says Bradley Hills pastor Reverend Susan Andrews, a well-known national leader in the Presbyterian denomination who supports the idea of divestment from Israel as a political move, though she does not like the way her movement handled it. “Most people don’t understand that the Christian presence is being eliminated by Israeli policies,” she says. “It’s not about Israel or the right of Israel to exist; it’s about a particular policy of a particular government.”

The two congregations spent six months talking toward a resolution. “Our compromise was like the Purim story,” explains Schnitzer. “When you realize you can’t get the king to rescind his decree, you try to pass an ancillary document that modifies the decree. We decided that if divestment was indeed to occur, our congregants would present an overture to the Presbyterian Church that any funds divested from companies in Israel be reinvested into companies pursuing peaceful pursuits in Israel and the Palestinian areas.” Adds Schnitzer, “We value this relationship so much that we felt we had to find a place where both congregations could agree. There was no question that we would work on this and not walk away in anger. We’ve chosen to focus on the things that unite us.”

As with most Jewish questions, there is more than one way to approach the subject of synagogues that share space with churches. The Hebrew term for synagogue — beit knesset — literally translates as “house of assembly,” a place where 10 men can gather for a minyan. This points to a flexible concept of sacred space, but my own rabbi, who asks not to be identified, tells me that any room set aside for Jewish prayer and study is gov¬erned by special rules. “There are very clear halachos about how to act in a shul, what a shul can and cannot be used for,” he says. “Halacha is very clear about the fact that shuls have a kedushah [holiness], which, to my mind, totally precludes sharing space with a church.”

Rabbi Herschel Schachter, a head rabbi at Yeshiva University and a world-renowned Torah scholar, says the halachic position on space sharing comes directly from the Shulchan Aruch, a compendium of Jewish law compiled by the 16th-century Rabbi Joseph Caro.

“A Jew is not permitted to go into a church during prayer service, even to save his life,” Schachter says. “If it’s not during prayer service, it’s still forbidden, but then if it’s to save one’s life, it’s permitted. There were many Jews in the Second World War who used to go to prayer service to save their life, and we can’t fault them, but strictly speaking it’s not permissible.”

The theology behind this decree? “The reason during prayer service you can’t go is because one is acting as if he’s not a Jew,” he says. “To go to a prayer service, even if he’s not offering prayers, it’s as if he’s worshiping the other religion.” As for entering a church when prayer is not in session, he refers to a concept called marit ayin. A very important principle to most Orthodox Jews, marit ayin literally means “giving the appearance of wrongdoing.” When a Jew enters a church, says Schachter, “it looks as if he’s subscribing to the other religion.”

Rabbi Irving Greenberg, a world-renowned Orthodox leader and author of For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter between Judaism and Christianity, tells me that this theology should be seen in a social and historical context. “The Orthodox position on sharing space with a church reflects the inherited halachic tradition, which was essentially set in the Middle Ages,” Greenberg explains. “When Caro ruled in the Shulchan Aruch that Christianity was idolatry, he was fol¬lowing the opinion of Maimonides. Based on that, you couldn’t share a building for prayer purposes. A Jew isn’t permitted to even go into a house of idol worship.”

What’s changed during the past 50 years, says Greenberg, is that the Catholic Church and other major Christian denominations have publicly acknowledged the validity of Judaism. “That changes the whole question,” Greenberg says. “When Christianity was persecuting Jews and denying the God of Israel, it was one kind of religion. Now that Christians are recognizing Judaism, it’s a very different kind of religion.” At the same time, he adds, “there’s been a trend in modern Christianity to see Jesus less as a literal god-head than as a vehicle bringing people to God. Although we reject the Christian concept of the Trinity, Christianity is now more dearly acknowledging that it wants to bring people to worship the God of Israel, the God of the Jewish people, the Creator of the Universe. I think it is morally and theologically important for all Jews to acknowledge that Christianity is not idolatry.”

Eventually, Greenberg believes Orthodox Jews may create new rulings that better reflect what Christianity has become. “Socially and culturally, Orthodoxy has the strongest memory,” he says. “Ironically, though, many Orthodox Jews are now the ones forming the closest connections with traditional Christians, seeing eye to eye with them on issues such as abortion or support for parochial schools. Our whole relationship to Christianity is in the process of changing, theologically as well as humanly. But halachic changes take time.”

Meanwhile, non-Orthodox leaders have their own ways of looking at inter-religious space sharing. Many, but not all, are uncomfortable praying in a sanctuary with Christian symbols, but few see a theological reason against sharing space with a church if crosses and other Christian icons are covered. Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and a leader of the Reform movement, frequently attends services at Manhattan’s Bnai Jeshurun and calls the partnership with St. Paul and St. Andrew a kiddush hashem, a sanctification of God’s name. “Indeed, in view of a Jewish tradition that commands us Jews to feed and clothe our Christian neighbors, and to pay respect to their dead through proper burial, I am delighted that Jews and Christians can show one another mutual care by sharing a sacred space in this manner.”

Before I leave Beth Emeth, I stop by to speak with St. Clare’s pastor, James Rhodenhiser. “Reverend James,” as he is known, greets me in his office, an inviting room with wood-paneled walls. He says the church will find a way to remain in the building with Temple Beth Emeth, even if Temple membership continues to expand. “St. Clare’s parishioners wouldn’t know who they were without Temple Beth Emeth. It’s a key piece of our identity as a church. Part of being a Christian is hon¬oring Judaism. If you get to that point, you feel less defensive. There’s no reason that any Christian church couldn’t have a relationship like this.”

During Rhodenhiser’s last annual Shab¬bat sermon, he recalls that he quoted words from Exodus 19:6: “You shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” He remembers, “I talked about how God doesn’t mean a nation with a lot of priests—he means a people who are priestly. Being priestly means to manifest God in human affairs.” He smiles and looks me in the eye. “The world is not going to become all Jewish, and it’s not going to become all Christian either. Maybe part of God’s purpose for Jewish people is to be in partnerships like this so they can influence the rest of us as a priestly people.”

In Rhodenhiser’s eyes, sharing worship space is “a good American spiritual gift to the world. Maybe God’s done something to America that He hasn’t done anywhere else. Americans don’t want to write off their neighbor’s faith. I think it is a very deep thing to be affirming of your neighbor’s faith and see good in it.”

As I drive home to my husband, my children, my shul and my world, I find myself admiring the energy with which Temple Beth Emeth and St. Clare work together to change the world—not necessarily mitzvah by mitzvah as in my congregation, but through a will to build bridges and heal people. At the heart of this small but energetic religious space-sharing phenomenon is a desire for the kind of lasting peace that occurs when people open their minds, expand their definitions of right and extend a hand to people who are different from them, while still holding fast to their deepest beliefs. It is, to paraphrase the Book of Kings, “a still small voice” with potential to grow.

One response to “From the Archives: My House Shall Be a House Of Prayer For All

  1. A very thoughtful piece. My community also meets in a mixed-space — a Congregationalist church whose pastor, in the wake of a recent JCC shooting, told us that his worshippers would surround the shul so we could pray in peace. “Only in America” indeed!

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