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Mormon Congregation Attends Jewish Shabbat Service in Church Meetinghouse

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined a Jewish group for a Friday night Shabbat service in a Mormon meetinghouse in Irvine, California, Friday, October 13, 2017. It was the last time the Jewish congregation would meet at the Church stake center where it had been meeting for the past year, while its synagogue was undergoing renovation.

“Giving Thanks to Our Mormon Friends” was the title of the Shabbat service sermon by Rabbi Richard Steinberg of the Shir-Ha-Ma’alot (SHM) Jewish congregation. More than 200 Jews and Mormons welcomed each other with expressions of gratitude, handshakes and Shabbat greetings.

                                 

President Tait Eyre of the Irvine California Stake heard the Jewish congregation needed a place to meet and offered the Church meetinghouse as an option. “Our purpose for doing this was to strengthen our relationship between our faiths,” said President Eyre.

The Jewish congregation met at the building on Friday nights and Saturday mornings as part of their Jewish Sabbath worship when the facilities were typically not being used. Rabbi Steinberg said the Mormon congregation “opened the door with love and kindness.”

Church leaders would be there to host the Jewish congregation each time they met in the building. Members who came to host would help clean, prepare classrooms and even join in the services.

Throughout the year, Rabbi Steinberg said he had gained a greater understanding of why Mormons want to share the truths they believe. Yet, he said they refrained from proselytizing “in order to achieve a higher religious value.” In his Shabbat sermon, Rabbi Steinberg pointed out that the Mormon missionaries in attendance had even assisted with their High Holy Days.

As an expression of gratitude, Rabbi Steinberg pronounced a blessing upon the Latter-day Saints in attendance. He said SHM plans to dedicate a space in its new synagogue in honor of the Church as a reminder that its “graciousness, hospitality and kindness are a model for all religions.” The Mormon congregation was also invited to attend the grand opening of the new synagogue.

Rabbi Steinberg expressed a hope that “the world around would see the friendship between these two communities as a model.”

“It’s been a remarkable feeling of closeness that has never faded for the entire year,” said Marty Hart from SHM, who attended Shabbat services and Torah study on a regular basis at the meetinghouse.  

“I enjoyed it every time I attended,” said Kenny Giuliani, a Mormon who had opportunities to serve as a host. “Even though the way we worship may be a little different, one thing that definitely unites us is love and respect for others’ religious views and beliefs.”

“We all had the opportunity to learn, with appreciation and gratitude, that we have much more in common than many may have suspected and more around which we can unite,” said Larry Gassin, a Latter-day Saint who coordinated the building sharing for the year.

                                            

The Shabbat service ended with the congregation interlocking arms. 

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