Congregation Beth Israel & New Hope United Methodist Church

Dear Congregation Beth Israel community,

We’re writing with delight to share news of a new interfaith collaboration happening at CBI.

Collaboration With New Hope

This spring we were approached by the clergy and lay leadership of New Hope United Methodist Church. They do not have a church building of their own, and they were searching for a space to rent in which to hold their Sunday morning services, occasional weekday Bible study, and pastoral office hours. Our rabbi met with their pastor, and members of our Board of Directors met with their pastor and their lay leadership. After appropriate discernment, we agreed to rent space at CBI to them for the coming year. The first three months will be a trial period, after which either party can end the relationship or opt to continue for the rest of the year. We hope (and expect) that the partnership will work out well for both communities.

Their services are held at times that do not conflict with ours. (And on the rare occasions when a Jewish holiday falls on a Sunday morning, our needs take precedence.) They understand the Jewish community’s unique security needs and have agreed to take the same steps we do in order to keep our community safe. They have offered us the use of their livestreaming equipment. They will be paying a modest fee in rent, which helps us fiscally, providing a source of additional revenue. We’re already talking about collaborations on other levels, ranging from partnering on Take & Eat to inviting their members to learn about Judaism at our Chanukah bonfire or Second Night Community Seder.

“Deep Ecumenism”

Reb Zalman (Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l) taught that every religious tradition is like an organ in the body of humanity. We need each one to be what it uniquely is, and we also need each one to be in relationship with the others. If the heart is not on speaking terms with the liver, the body wouldn’t do very well! Just so, it’s spiritually healthy for us to be connected with other religious traditions, to learn about each other and value what each tradition brings to the table. He believed that every religious tradition is a path to the One, and he called this “Deep Ecumenism.” Our differences are real and meaningful, and so are our areas of common ground.

His friend Rev. Matthew Fox used a different metaphor, writing that in religious life, there are “many wells, one river.” We can imagine the flow of spiritual life as a vast underground river of wisdom and spiritual nourishment. Each religious tradition digs our own well and draws up water from that river. Each well is different, meaningful, and sacred. But the water that flows through them comes from the same Source of All. Renting space to a church community is a way of honoring that value.

What Will This Mean For Each Of Us?

How will this impact us as members of the CBI community? We think the impacts will be positive. If we have enough interest between the two communities to restart our Take & Eat program, those from CBI who take part in the mitzvah of feeding the hungry will do so with partners from New Hope. Our choir members will rehearse on Sundays after their coffee hour is over. A modest sign will be added to our sign in front of the building so that their members know that this building is their spiritual home, too. (Our Board of Directors will approve the signage, and will ensure that it is appropriate.) And the collaboration will create community connections.

If you have questions about any of this, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Natalie (for practical conversations) or Rabbi Rachel (for spiritual ones).

Blessings to all,

— Natalie Matus & Rabbi Rachel Barenblat