Building Bridges

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. Andrews’ Saratoga, other churches in the Diocese of El Camino Real, Congregation Beth Am, Congregation Shir Hadash 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 has also used 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 six Building Bridges introductory programs, and about 140 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.

Our seventh Building Bridges program, with 22 participants, commenced in January 2020  between Congregation Shir Hadash and Sacred Heart of Saratoga, a Roman Catholic parish.    If you are interested but haven’t had a chance to participate yet, look for the next Building Bridges program!

In 2018 Building Bridges founders Diane and Bob Frankle began developing relationships with Muslims interested in interfaith dialogue with a goal to develop a tri-faith interfaith dialogue with Christians, Jews and Muslims.  A multi-faith working group, with 15 participants from All Saints, Congregation Beth Am and Pacifica Institute, has been meeting since mid-2019 to work on this new curriculum. All Saints’ parishioners Diane Frankle, Susan Barkan, Phil Palmer, Beth Wigen and John Toccalino, are involved in this ongoing project and the working group hopes to be in a position to offer a pilot program using this new curriculum sometime in late 2020 or early 2021. In light of this expanded mission, Diane and Bob Frankle established a non-profit, Building Bridges Together, in 2019, and transferred all the curriculum and materials developed for the Building Bridges programs into this entity.  Bob and Diane Frankle serve with Phil Palmer as the organization’s inaugural Board of Directors. A website and additional materials for Building Bridges Together are also in the works.