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Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

Our Unique Relationships

BJC has a unique partnership with Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church (BHPC). We believe that this arrangement, first begun in 1967, is the longest-lived such relationship between a Jewish congregation and a church in existence in the United States. Our relationship has allowed us to truly practice the ideal of people dwelling together in harmony.

Bethesda Jewish Congregation is a liberal Jewish congregation. We are not affiliated with any particular movement within Judaism, but gain insight from each of them. Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church is a member of the Presbyterian Church, USA. We are two distinct congregations that share sacred space and friendship. There is no blending of faiths and each congregation follows its own religious beliefs.

In 2003 and again in 2017 on the occasion of our 50th anniversary, the two congregations signed a covenant, which reads in part, “We wish to acknowledge and celebrate commonalities and differences. We see this relationship as a living example of understanding and respect among people of different heritage.” The covenant is on display in a ketubah outside our worship space. Read the full text of this covenant below. 

In addition to our traditional joint Thanksgiving Service, which—starting in 2006—has also included the Idara e Jaferia Islamic Center, the congregations annually enjoy other joint services such as one to commemorate the victims of gun violence. Other programs have included an annual Unity Walk with others of all faiths in the aftermath of the September 11th tragedy, efforts to respond to gun violence, and most recently in pursuit of racial justice following the murder of George Floyd.

The synagogue and church together conduct educational sessions on topics of current interest, support social justice projects in the community, embrace pulpit exchanges, and more. This synagogue-church partnership has served both congregations well, allowing them to gain insight and understanding into the faiths of others, and, at the same time, serving to deepen their respective faiths.

Covenant Between Bethesda Jewish Congregation & Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church

We, the members of Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church and the Bethesda Jewish Congregation, form together this covenant to honor the Intimate and Infinite God of Creation, the One God we both worship. Taking to heart the biblical charge to be a light to the nations, we seek to offer a prophetic vision of interfaith partnership in a pluralistic world. Continuing a relationship begun in 1967, as spiritual siblings sharing sacred space, we commit ourselves to:

Acknowledge and celebrate our commonalities and differences; Foster appreciation for the richness of our respective traditions; Encourage curiosity and dialogues between our two communities of faith; Bear witness to our faith in cooperative activity in the world; Create with each other what we cannot create separately.

Recognizing the word of our great teachers, we commit ourselves to fulfill the Great Commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your might. With deepest gratitude, we pledge to continue to celebrate the light bestowed upon us. May this union of spirit and space spark a flame of respect and understanding throughout the world.

NOVEMBER 23, 2003

Intercongregational Partnership Committee

Members of Bethesda Jewish Congregation and Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church nurture connections between the two congregations throughout the year through joint service projects and interfaith activities.

The Intercongregational Partnership Committee, or IPC, was formed in 2002 upon completion of Covenant Hall, a place for prayer, in the complex some call “church” and others “synagogue.” IPC members refer to the complex as our “prayer place.” Like the larger “prayer place,” Covenant Hall is a shared space where BJC holds religious services Friday night and Saturday morning and both congregations hold meetings at various times.

THE IPC’S STANDING ANNUAL EVENTS:

  • Thanksgiving service—led jointly by the clergy of BJC and BHPC and by clergy or lay leaders of an area Muslim community (these have included Idara-e-Jaferia Islamic Center of Burtonsville, the Islamic Community Center of Potomac, and Maqaam Ibrahim)—for adults and children, including a children’s service and fundraising for a charitable organization, followed by lunch
  • Pulpit exchange—BHPC’s Reverend David Gray or an associate pastor gives a sermon on the bimah at a Friday night service at BJC, and Rabbi Schnitzer speaks from BHPC’s altar during a Sunday church service
  • Speaker and discussion programs—on subjects of national, international, and interreligious interest, such as the program New Story Leadership
  • Joint service projects—such as house building and renovation projects with Habitat for Humanity of Metro Maryland, as well as grounds cleaning and planting at the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda
  • Awareness-raising programs—in support of racial and economic justice issues locally, nationally, and internationally, as well as a focus on prevention of gun violence
  • Grounds cleaning and planting at 6601 Bradley Boulevard, where BJC and BHPC share a place of worship and learning

The IPC invites you to join in conceiving, planning, and executing events that nurture connections between BJC and BHPC and advance our shared interests. To learn more or find out about our next meeting, please contact the chair of the IPC.

 

Our Other Interfaith Relationships

BJC, Bradley Hills, and Area Mosques: Building New Bridges Among the Abrahamic Faiths

In another of our unique collaborative efforts, BJC and BHPC have been building upon our longstanding harmonious relationship by collaborating on an expanding series of activities with the Idara-e-Jaferia, a mosque in Burtonsville, MD, as well as two other area mosques. Shortly after September 11, 2001, a number of our like-minded congregants decided that it was important to build on the lessons we had learned and try to establish a relationship with a local mosque. In 2003, we learned of efforts by a group from the Idara-e-Jaferia to reach out to nearby churches and synagogues, and we began our relationship with them shortly thereafter.

Over the past several years, we have been building our relationship in as many ways as possible. In addition to our joint Thanksgiving services and discussions, our members have gone to celebrate Ramadan, as well as other Muslim holidays, at the mosque. In 2018, a TuB'Shevat seder was held at the mosque led by Rabbi Schnitzer.  Members of Idara-e-Jaferia have attended seders at BJC.

We have worked together on community social action projects, such as a Habitat for Humanity Unity Build (a joint effort led by our three congregations to build and raise money for a new Habitat housing project in Gaithersburg) and events to draw attention to atrocities in Darfur. We have had joint study/discussion sessions with our three spiritual leaders, have jointly sponsored speakers, and have had annual potluck dinners for smaller groups at our members’ homes to get to know each other on a more personal level. We initiated joint women’s discussion groups, have had some joint Book Club discussions on topical books on the Middle East and Al Qaeda, and have even had some get-togethers to discuss more difficult topics involving Israel, Palestine, and Iran. 

In more recent years, we have had the Islamic Community Center of Potomac join us in many of these events. In 2016, we jointly dedicated a banner to display on our BJC/BHPC grounds to show our joint support for the Muslim community, and starting in 2017, we jointly cosponsored three Afghan refugee families. Most recently, starting in 2019, a new Muslim congregation, the Maqaam-e-Ibrahim Islamic Center, has been holding Friday afternoon prayers in our building, and we have had its members join us in several of these same joint programs.

Fri, December 4 2020 18 Kislev 5781