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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 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 Daily Camera, September 27, 2009.

Bridging a big divide on Yom Kippur

By Clay Evans

In the Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a new year. Ten days later it's followed by Yom Kippur the intense but joyous "day of atonement" when Jewish people are reconciled with God and, tradition has it, the creator also renders the fate of all people.

The dates of the Jewish High Holidays (or Holy Days) moves from year to year, but fall in September and October. This year Yom Kippur begins at sundown tonight and ends at sundown tomorrow and a Boulder Jewish Renewal congregation, Pardes Levavot, is really serious about reconciliation, and not just with God.

Jewish Renewal is a movement, considered controversial by many, that emphasizes the mystical, meditation and ecumenism while cheerily accepting and borrowing from other "wisdom traditions," from Buddhism to Sufism to Hinduism. The movement's recognized leader is none other than Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi of Naropa University, an Orthodox-trained cleric who is anything but orthodox in how he approaches spirituality.

But even if many liberal-minded Jews are willing to cross the divide in reaching out to Eastern religions, Judaism and Christianity have seemed, to many, to lie on opposite sides of an unbridgeable divide.

Tell that to Pardes Levavot and Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, congregations that have shared a worship space for more than six years.

"This isn't a rental partnership," says Rabbi Victor Gross of Pardes Levavot (Hebrew for "Orchard of Hearts.") "It's an effort to enter into a partnership of true ecumenical practice."

As if to show they mean business, Gross and his wife, Rabbi Nadya Gross, and their congregation will share their Yom Kippur services today and tonight with Christians (and at least one Muslim, an Israeli Arab guest).

"When 'Reb' Zalman gave his seminal teaching on 'deep ecumenism'" -- basically, the idea that there is "one river" of truth and wisdom, tapped into by the "wells" of every spiritual tradition -- ".... he said, 'You know, we've gotten to the point where we've got no problem with 'Bu-Jews' (Jewish converts to Buddhism), or Hindu Jews, or Sufi Jews, but use the 'C' word (Christianity), and we start heading for the hills,'" Victor says.

Pardes Levavot has taken its partnership with Shepherd of the Hills Pastor Marty Lettow and the congregation seriously. On Rosh Hashanah, Christians were present for the service and the blowing of the shofar, a traditional instrument made from a ram's horn.

"We think that was probably a first in the world," Nadya says.

Today, along with Schachter-Shalomi, Pardes Levavot will again welcome Shepherd of the Hills congregants for "dialogue, sharing visions and modeling from the heart," she says. They've also invited two women, a Jew and a Muslim Arab, who teach at a Waldorf school in Israel, to speak and join in.

All of this, Nadya says, will be contained within a "traditional" Yom Kippur service. She and Victor recognize that not everybody is able to accept such ecumenism (yet), but refuse to pretend the elephant in the room -- Jesus: Messiah or not? -- isn't there.

"If there are certain things you can't put on the table, then what's the point of continuing the dialogue?" Victor asks.

"The source of the teachings is the same," Nadya says. "On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we were using the imagery of (The biblical book of) Isaiah, which says 'my house will be a house of prayer for all people' and says that paradise is here right now. Jesus says the same thing later in the Gospel of Luke; he quotes it word for word. We can talk about the source of the teachings. What we made later of it as religions developed is not something we need to argue about as long as it doesn't keep us at odds with each other."

They know they have a long way to go, but Victor quotes Andrew Jackson when noting that every effort begins with a few people, even one person. And he's encouraged that the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland has been (knock on wood) largely resolved.

"Not everybody will get it yet. Humans have been around a long time, beating each other up while still allowing poverty and hunger and all that to continue," he says.

Ecumenical Yom Kippur services begin at 10 a.m. and continue throughout the day and evening at Pardes Levavot/Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, 7077 Harvest Road in Gunbarrel. The public is welcome.