Members of two central San Joaquin Valley faith traditions are embarking together next week on a pilgrimage in Israel and Jordan.
Holy Family Episcopal Church, the only Episcopal congregation in Fresno, and Temple Beth Israel, the Valley's largest Jewish congregation, are working in partnership to experience the Israel/Jordan Interfaith Pilgrimage from Thursday to Nov. 20.
Thirty-eight people are signed up to go — split about half from each congregation.
The partnership is designed to encourage interfaith dialogue so that congregants can develop a better understanding of each other's faith and strengthen the knowledge of their common beliefs.
The Rev. Michele Racusin, pastor of Holy Family, and Rick Winer, rabbi of Temple Beth Israel, say they have strong interests in the interfaith community. Winer and his wife, Laura Novak Winer, also a rabbi, lived in Israel.
The pilgrimage for the Jewish and Christian congregations is believed to be an unprecedented partnership in Fresno.
"We've had several meetings," Racusin says. "We have gone to (Temple Beth Israel) for services. This is one more thing in that bond. They are like bonds of affection."
The tour starts in Tel Aviv. Stops include sites that are important to both religions — Bethlehem, the Garden Tomb, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, St. Anne's Church, the Holocaust Museum, the Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Hezekiah's Tunnel, the Burnt House, the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Petra and an ultra-conservative Jewish neighborhood.
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