U.H. reaches out to neighbors


In an effort to get to know its neighbors, United Hebrew Congregation has initiated what it hopes will be an ongoing interfaith effort to foster understanding among three faiths in its West County neighborhood.

“We wanted to bring together United Hebrew as a Jewish congregation, a Muslim community and a Christian community to create a dialogue and what we hope will be a long-term relationship among the three communities,” said Rabbi Howard Kaplansky, senior rabbi of United Hebrew.

Out of a desire to become acquainted with its neighbors — the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis and Manchester United Methodist Church — the U.H. social action committee approached the Interfaith Partnership as the most effective vehicle through which to begin to build a relationship among the three communities, Kaplansky says.

“We hope to create a relationship that will express itself through shared experiences. That will involve dialogue to increase the knowledge and understanding of our communities among each other and to build an ongoing relationship among adults and youth that could be expressed in spiritual and social ways,” Kaplansky said.

The first step and the kickoff for the collaboration will be an interfaith educational forum hosted by United Hebrew, 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, at the temple, 13788 Conway Rd.

The forum will feature Kaplansky of U.H., Imam Muhammed Nur Abdullah of the Islamic Foundation and Rev. Dr. Carl Schenck of Manchester United Methodist who will explore the topic “Children of Abraham – Three Siblings: Christian, Jewish, Muslim” from their faith perspectives.

“The forum is a springboard for the collaboration out of which we intend to have a dialogue group comprised of equal representatives from all three congregations,” said Irene Randall, program manager of education and events at the Interfaith Partnership.

Randall said the group will spend the year becoming acquainted with one another, learning about each other’s faiths. “Then they will focus on what each faith says about serving the community,” Randall said.

The intent is to examine social issues with an eye toward initiating a collaborative social service project under the auspices of Faith Beyond Walls, a sister organization to Interfaith Partnership, Randall says.

“The goal is after a period of the group’s getting acquainted and deciding priorities for a community service project, they will come together for community service,” Randall said. “This will be ongoing, at least one a year,” she said.

The group will meet monthly with each congregation hosting alternately.

Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis will facilitate the educational forum, which will be followed by a dessert reception. For more information or to RSVP, call Nancy Motchan, 314-434-3404, ext. 102 or e-mail [email protected] by Jan. 26.