Interfaith Encounters Day 7: the Final Day!

March 23, 2013

Our final day together began at Congregation Rodeph Shalom on Broad St. in Philadelphia.

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Their faith community’s vision is to awaken the human spirit to the possibilities within and between people. They seek to create a Jewish community of profound connections through transformative study, prayer, and urban engagement.

Rodeph Shalom welcomes all who come to explore or deepen their connection to Judaism and God.

They find strength in diversity of perspective, age, gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, family constellation, and socio-economic background.

They welcome interfaith families with open arms.

They rejoice with each other in times of joy and comfort each other in times of sadness; lift voices in prayer, embracing the faithful and the skeptic; wrestle with the many faces of the Divine on journeys of growth and spirituality; engage in the lifelong study of Torah, adding their voices to the generations of interpretation.

SAMSUNGRodeph seeks to repair the brokenness in their neighborhood and the world.
They celebrate a connection to Israel and Jews globally, providing a forum for learning and discussion.
They draw inspiration from the beauty of the musical, visual, and performing arts.
They cultivate a commitment to Jewish life and Jewish identity in the next generation.
They reflect, renew, and innovate in the spirit of Reform Judaism.

We are fortunate enough to be able to attend a Bat Mitzvah as part of their Shabbat service.

Afterwards, Dan Slipakoff, a graduate student and member of the synagogue, shared some of the history of Rodeph Shalom, its ministry, and addressed questions from the group.

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Then, it was time to return to St. Barbara’s church for the closing ceremony before the group’s return to Wisconsin. I don’t have any pictures from that time, because I didn’t have time nor want to take pictures. There was too much sharing and listening to do; too many new friends with which to hug, cry, and laugh; too many amazing experiences to be thankful for and to be inspired by; no adequate way to put this all into words.

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So I won’t try. I will just say what I said to this amazing group of students and their teaching leaders:

I wondered how this week would enhance my own story. I thought that visits to faith communities and work with service-learning partners would give me new information and greater insights. I thought that those experiences would enhance my own story.

But the students enhanced my story.

Their openness, their desire to do good in the world–their commitment to authenticity–whether a person of faith or an atheist or agnostic–this changed me. It inspired me to be authentic in my own faith practice and moved me to be even more committed to social justice and good work in the community–reaching across lines of difference and asking good, curious questions.

Honestly, I was really changed by this group and this experience.

Nothing left to say except this:

better

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Josh grew up in Indiana and Iowa before completing a Masters of Divinity [M.Div.] at Princeton Theological Seminary [NJ]. He has worked in a variety of settings, including the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ (UCC) in Philadelphia, Hawai’i, Mexico, and Michigan. Currently, he serves as pastor of Love in Action United Church of Christ, a progressive, Christian, LGBTQIA+ affirming and interfaith community in Hatboro, a suburb of Philadelphia. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre/Speech from Northwestern College (IA). Josh has worked with youth and young adult programs for 25 years regionally, nationally, and in Latin America. He is also a trained actor and performs regularly with the dinner theatre company, Without a Cue Productions, LLC. He has developed theatre arts curriculum for use in worship, youth groups, education, and group-building. Josh is also committed to promoting religious pluralism and partnering with people of all faiths and those who identify as atheist or agnostic to build bridges of shared values and cooperation. He is honored to work with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia as a Fellow and a Consultant. Focus areas include: University alternative spring break and summer programs that incorporate faith encounters and service-learning for students; workplace diversity programs that promote understanding in organizations, corporations, schools, and hospital settings. Josh also enjoys playing basketball, strumming on the guitar, traveling, learning language, or making strange and funny faces. He lives in Center City Philadelphia and thinks vegan cheesesteaks are amazingly good.

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