In late 2012, Holy Cross received a letter from a neighboring Jewish congregation, Congregation B’nai Tikvah, asking if we would be interested in a space-sharing arrangement. We were! The clergy and lay leaders of each congregation met to discuss initial ideas, and a good rapport developed in a matter of weeks.
In one conversation that built upon another, we all learned that both congregations had interesting historical parallels and were also at critical moments of rebuilding. By January 2013, leaders of the two congregations approached their membership with the space-sharing possibility, and asked to hear their hopes, interests and concerns. We worked to address concerns, and acted on the overwhelmingly positive response from members of both communities. We prayed for guidance, and decided to move forward. Holy Cross gained necessary consent from their Bishop and leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, and drafted a sublease through Greene Properties.
After the sub-lease was approved, we discussed logistics of space-sharing. Because Holy Cross had only been in this new leased space for a year, it was easy to move and modify storage space to accommodate another congregation. Together we enlisted the help of a local fabric artist to design a covering for the large cross hanging in the sanctuary, as well as coverings for the smaller crosses placed throughout the building. The Tuesday afternoon Hebrew School began in their new home in March of 2013, and Shabbat worship began in May of 2013. Two mezuzot were affixed to the main entrances, and prayers were said by Rabbi Ben and Cantor Larry.
Vicar Laura Sheridan-Campbell said in late 2013, “Since we began sharing space with Congregation B’nai Tikvah, rarely do I enter Holy Cross without recognizing that, for me, God has been made larger by the presence of a praying Jewish community. When I touch the mezuzah at our doorpost and then the holy water at the entrance to the nave, I thank God that our building isa spiritual home for two different faith communities. And in times of prayer and reflection, I have come to believe that the same God is being praised in one sacred space.”
Over four years, members of both congregations have shared in worship of the other congregation. Hundreds of people have come to the building to mark high holy days of their respective faith communities. Rabbi Ben Leinow and Vicar Laura Sheridan-Campbell co-officiated at an interfaith wedding in October, 2014. Each week, during our respective times of sabbath, Hebrew chanting and hymns of praise are sung. Uplifting sermons are preached. And people are renewed in hope and faith.
A highpoint of our relationship thus far came in late 2016, when Holy Cross and Congregation B’nai Tikvah joined together for worship on Thanksgiving Eve. Due to some great press from that event, members of the community joined the two congregations in celebration of the First Night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve (the dates of which only coincide three times each 100 years) on December 24. A safe link to the front page article from the SD Union Tribune is here.
As we continue to share space, we pray for increased understanding of persons of different faiths, and for the strength and courage to bear witness to unity in a world too often divided by religion.