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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2017 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

May 5, 2017  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Jews, Unitarians and Buddhists to share space

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

After 20 years at its home on Keystone Road near Tarpon Springs, Congregation B’nai Emmunah is selling its synagogue and, beginning next month, will be sharing facilities with Unitarians and Buddhists in in the heart of Tarpon Springs.

While it is not known if this is the first time in the Tampa Bay area that three separate faiths will share the same home, both Rabbi Lynn Goldstein and Rev. Robert Murphy, leader of the Universalists church, agree is it unusual, if not unique.

Rev. Murphy’s church took in the Buddhist Meditation Group of Tarpon Springs three years ago and that group, not formally a temple but led by several Sri Lankan monks, holds meditation services in the church’s facilities every Wednesday.

The three faiths will hold their first joint event on Sunday, May 14 at 10:30 a.m. when there will be an interfaith celebration of the Buddhist festival, Wesak – the season recognizing Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and departure from the human world.

In order to accommodate the expected crowd, the service will be at the Walton Community Center, 400 S. Walton Road, in Tarpon Springs.

For B’nai Emmunah, the move to the Unitarian Universalist Church, 230 Grand Blvd., Tarpon Springs, makes the most financial sense for her small congregation, said Rabbi Goldstein.

May 31 is the projected closing date for sale of the congregation’s property at 3374 Keystone Road, Rabbi Goldstein said, and the congregation is planning its first Shabbat service at its new home on Friday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Prior to leaving their building, the public is invited to a sale of congregation items on Sunday, May 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Items for sale include office furnishings, kitchen items, art works, including high value Judaica, Gates of Repentance Prayer Books for the High Holy Days, religious school books and arts and crafts supplies. The sale will take place at 3374 Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs, home of B’nai Emmunah for 20 years.

The Reform congregation was founded by the late Rabbi Jan Bresky in November 1989 and met in rented facilities until buying the Keystone Road property. The first service there was on May 2, 1997.

After their move to the Unitarian Church property, B’nai Emmunah will have to coordinate their events with the others sharing the facilities, but Rabbi Goldstein sees that as an opportunity for the three faiths to possibly work together in community outreach efforts and educational programs.

The Unitarian Universalist property once had four buildings, but sinkholes led to one being demolished and damage to the other three, Rabbi Goldstein said. One of the three buildings, formerly a house, has been repaired and that is where the Buddhists meet for Wednesday night prayers, and this is where B’nai Emmunah will meet.

The other buildings, a meeting hall and a sanctuary, are still undergoing sinkhole remediation and Rev. Murphy said he is hopeful they will reopen in October or November. Until that happens, the Unitarians hold their main Sunday services at the Walton Center, due to the size of their membership, Rev. Murphy said.

Rabbi Goldstein said Rev. Murphy was one of the first clergy members to welcome her to Tarpon Springs when she came here in 2015 to lead B’nai Emmunah.

“He has always been supportive and when he learned we needed a new home, he said he would help,” Rabbi Goldstein said.

The Rabbi said when the congregation moves, it will give its bima and ark to Hillels of the Florida Suncoast, which has facilities at a variety of campuses in the Tampa Bay area. Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, executive director of Hillel, was in Rabbi Goldstein’s rabbinical school class, she said.

At B’nai Emmunah’s new home, a quilt with Jewish themed images made years ago by a former B’nai Emmunah congregant, Barbara Rosen, will be used as an ark, Rabbi Goldstein said, explaining that the Torah will be wrapped in a tallis and then covered by the quilt.

Rosen, coincidentally, is now president of the Unitarian church. Also, the church’s music director, Barbara Whitehurst, is well known to the local Jewish community, Rev. Murphy said.

“We are very excited to be finding a home with these other faiths and look forward to opportunities to work together when we can,” Rabbi Goldstein said.

“Amen,” Rev. Murphy added.

The congregation’s phone number (727) 938-9000 will remain the same.


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