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Pardes Levavot

Pardes Levavot, “Orchard of Hearts,” was formed in the spirit of creating conscious holy community. Our name expresses the spiritual blossoming of each individual heart within an inspiring and nurturing orchard.

For information on our congregation please call (303) 563-2110 and leave a message or send email to info@pardeslevavot.org. To join our congregation, please print a copy of our membership form, fill it out, and send it to our Synagogue.


Pardes Levavot gratefully acknowledges Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado for their support of our Circle of Family Education program. Thank you!

Reprinted from the Boulder Weekly, September 29 - October 5, 2005.

A Confluence of the Sacred

Pardes Levavot brings Jews, Christians and Muslims together to pray.

by Pamela White

It's not often that Jews, Christians and Muslims, spiritual children of fabled biblical patriarch Abraham, sit down to pray together. It's rarer still when the doors to the synagogue, church or mosque are thrown open to welcome people of non-Abrahamic faiths — Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans.

But the rabbis at Pardes Levavot, a local Jewish Renewal congregation, are hoping to make inter-faith prayer a much more common event. Rabbis Nadya and Victor Gross are joining other Jewish Renewal congregations around the world in inviting not only Christians and Muslims, but people of all faiths to pray with them during Jewish High Holy Days — Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

Interfaith prayer is nothing new to these rabbis, already in their second year of collaboration with Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church. In May 2004, Pardes Levavot moved into the building previously inhabited solely by the church, with the two parties determined to share much more than space. Committed to a "deep ecumenism," the rabbis and Pastors Larry and Linda Daniels-Block have found many opportunities over the past year and a half for bringing their congregants together to pray, to break bread and even share service projects.

"It has been very exciting," says Pastor Linda Daniels-Block. "We feel like it takes us to a place beyond what we are by ourselves. People have made new friends. We find that our scriptures come more alive because of the perspectives we hear from the rabbis. And when we worship side by side, it's often a very powerful and emotional and healing experience."

While Pardes Levavot will offer traditional Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services, this year's High Holy Days celebration, which will feature the theme "God's October Surprise," will go beyond the foundation established with Shepherd of the Hills to include two interfaith events that will welcome other Christian groups, Muslims and members of other faiths.

Because of differences in Jewish, Muslim and mainstream calendars, holidays occur on different cycles. Jews follow a modified lunar calendar that allows for the periodic insertion of a "leap month" in order to keep holidays in alignment with the seasons. Islam follows a straight lunar calendar with no adjustments, which means Muslim holidays move gradually through the seasons. Most Christians follow the Gregorian calendar, which is based on solar, not lunar, cycles and which incorporates a leap day every four years to keep dates in sync with the sun.

As a result of these differences, holidays from the three Abrahamic religions sometimes overlap but often do not. For example, Christmas is always celebrated on Dec. 25, while Chanukah, a Jewish holiday, shifts about from late November through early January, and Ramadan moves gradually around the entire calendar.

In 2005, 2006 and 2007, the Muslim month-long celebration of Ramadan and the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur coincide. This year, both holidays start with the new moon on Oct. 3. In addition, Oct. 2 is Worldwide Communion Sunday for Protestants, while Oct. 4 is the celebration of Saint Francis of Assisi, observed by Catholics. Oct. 13 is Yom Kippur for Jews, but it's also the Hindu holiday of Vijayadashami. All of these celebrations fall within the Buddhist period of reflection called Vassa.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a Jewish Renewal leader from The Tent of Abraham, Hagar and Sarah, a community of Jews, Christians and Muslims who have been working together for peace and justice, noticed this rare confluence of holidays and saw it as something special and sacred. He interpreted it as a spiritual call for people of different faiths to come together and named it "God's October Surprise." He asked other spiritual communities to join him in finding ways to celebrate this cluster of holy days through interfaith prayer and action.

"Rabbi Waskow's work tends to be very political," Rabbi Nadya says. "So we decided that, while his call is very political, we felt we were being called to respond not from the political platform Arthur is speaking from, but purely from the spiritual imperative... to ratchet up the work we've been doing with Shepherd of the Hills and to reach out to our Muslim brothers and sisters — cousins, really, in our case — and invite them in as well."

For Shepherd of the Hills, it marks the first time Muslims will come to pray with them in their church.

"We are very excited and very concerned to make sure the Muslim community understands our genuine hospitality, that we are really looking forward to welcoming them into our two shared sacred spaces," says Pastor Linda.

Pardes Levavot already had some ties to the Muslim community dating back, ironically, to Sept. 11, 2001, when the rabbis were invited to speak at an interfaith event in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York. There they met Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni, a Shi'a Muslim born in Iraq who serves as Imam to Islamic Center of Ahl Al-Beit in Denver, who had also been invited to speak.

"We were so impressed with the Imam," says Rabbi Victor. "We talked with him afterwards and really felt a deep connection. So when we were beginning to plan this 'God's October Surprise,' it occurred to us that he was the best person to contact."

The rabbis met with the Imam Kazerooni and discussed the possibility of sharing the holidays between their two historically alienated faiths.

"I was pleased as well as honored when they asked me to be part of this program," Imam Kazerooni says. "The fact that it is a unique historical occasion in which the Muslims, the Jewish community, as well as the Christian community all have something holy to celebrate makes it imperative for all of us to use this opportunity — and through the prayer and the holiness of these occasions — to try to build bridges and bring the communities together. I'm honored and privileged to be part of the group."

Imam Kazerooni is also dedicated to interfaith work and serves as the director of the Abrahamic Initiative, a program of St. John's Episcopal Church in Denver.

The Imam says members of his community are very open to the idea of praying with Christians and Jews. The only problems he expects to encounter involve logistics, like transporting families from Denver.

"This is, as Rabbi Gross said, God's miracle — a historical coincidence that all of this is coming together on this particular month," Imam Kazerooni says. "I would encourage everyone to do everything they can to be part of it. It's through these kind of meetings that we can extend the hand of friendship and accept the hand of friendship from others, build bridges, and get over, let's say, things that have happened in the past that have separated communities, break bread and be just part of a large family."

The public celebrations began on Sat., Sept. 24, with a Selichot service that featured Hebrew, Gregorian, Sufi and pre-Celtic chants for forgiveness, helping to set the tone for reconciliation.

On Wed., Oct. 5, the second day of Rosh HaShanah, the rabbis will join with Pastors Larry and Linda as well as Imam Kazerooni to pray and to share sacred texts and stories regarding Abraham, Sara, Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael. Those texts represent the beginning of the three faiths, but also the origins of their division.

Then on Oct. 13, Pardes Levavot will share the meal that ends the fast of Yom Kippur. Muslims, who will be fasting until sunset in honor of Ramada, and members of Shepherd of the Hills who are fasting in solidarity with the Jewish and Muslim holidays, will break their fast together.

The public is invited to both the Oct. 5 and Oct. 13 events, as well as Pardes Levavot's more traditional Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur services. Participants are welcome at whatever level of financial contribution they wish to make.

Rabbi Nadya says she's had members of Shepherd of the Hills tell her they're taking time off from work to observe the Jewish holidays this year, something she finds very touching.

"We don't want this to be just a media event or a once-a-year event. This confluence of events is happening three years in a row. And so we see this as a jumping off into a two-year-plus process of coming together at various times during the year, learning from one another, engaging with one another in a variety of opportunities to get to know each other, to heal from those misunderstandings and misconceptions and hopefully to begin a true process of reconciliation."

Pastor Linda says that for her the most amazing part of interfaith work is being allowed into one another's prayers.

"We see God in different ways in the different faiths, and as we hear one another and worship together our visions of God are expanded," she says. "There's a beautiful biblical expression in our scriptures, the New Testament: 'May the eyes of your heart be enlightened.' And that's exactly what it feels like each time — that the eyes of our hearts are enlightened."

For more information, go to www.pardeslevavot.org.

High Holy Days at Pardes Levavot

All events take place at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church/Pardes Levavot, 7077 Harvest Rd. in Boulder. Call (303) 563-2110 for more information.

"God's October Surprise" events

Rosh HaShanah, Second Day

Wed., Oct. 5, 10 a.m. — Sharing prayer and learning the stories of Abraham, Sara, Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael from Jewish, Christian and Muslim texts. Spiritual leaders from all three faiths will participate.

Yom Kippur and Ramadan Break Fast

Thurs., Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m. — Members of all three faiths will join together to share a meal. Reservations are required in order to make certain there's enough food.

General High Holy Days Events

Erev Rosh HaShanah — Mon., Oct. 3, 7 p.m.

Rosh HaShanah, First Day — Tues., Oct. 4, 9:30 a.m.

Kol Nidre — Wed., Oct. 12, 6:30 p.m.

Yom Kippur — Thurs., Oct. 13, 10 a.m.

Pardes Levavot welcomes all participants at whatever level of financial contribution they wish to make.

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