Building Bridges – An Interfaith Dialogue was founded in 2013. This program, initiated in partnership between All Saints Palo Alto and Congregation Beth Am, seeks to promote dialogue and understanding between Christians and Jews. The program has included participants from All Saints’ Palo Alto, St. Timothy’s Mountain View, St. Andrew’s Saratoga, other churches in the Diocese of El Camino Real, Congregation Beth Am and other faith communities.
Each Building Bridges introductory program gathers an interfaith group comprised of an equal number of Christians and Jews to participate in a five-session program, including dinner and discussion. The group is limited to 24 participants. The introductory program covers the following topics:
- From Our Past to Our Present:– Who We Are
- Metaphors, Images and Stereotypes
- Encountering the Text : Tools for Understanding
- Encountering the Text: The Ten Commandments
- Toward the Future
“Building Bridges – An Interfaith Dialogue” is derived from a curriculum developed by the Union for Reform Judaism and uses 15 minute videos produced by the National Council of Synagogues and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Each session provides opportunities for meaningful conversation on the topic for the evening. One primary objective is to build trust relationships between the participants.
Participants are not expected to be an expert in or an ambassador from their respective religions. The program helps participants learn about their own faith, as well as about people of a different faith. The clergy provide a sanctuary tour of each facility as well as a greeting, but otherwise the program is entirely lay-led with four facilitators for each program.
We have completed five Building Bridges introductory programs, and about 120 participants have completed the curriculum. We also have a created strong Building Bridges Community programming for alumni of the program. Alumni meet several times a year to enjoy fellowship and additional dialogue, including an annual interfaith Passover Seder, and dialogue sessions with topics chosen by a leadership group including Diane Frankle, Phil Palmer, and Susan Barkan from All Saints’, and Bob Frankle, Allen Podell and Mel Kronick from Beth Am. Topics have included Names of God, Texts that Unite and Texts that Divide, and The Shechinah and the Holy Spirit. In 2017 we offered a program on Rabbi Donniel Hartman’s book, Putting God Second, How to Save Religion from Itself.
In winter 2017 we held our fifth Building Bridges program, with 21 participants, between St. Andrews Saratoga and Temple Shir Haddash in Los Gatos. Our sixth Building Bridges program, with 24 participants, began in January 2018, between All Saints’ and Congregation Beth Am, with participants from a wide variety of faith communities. If you are interested but haven’t had a chance to participate yet, look for the next Building Bridges program!