In the early fall of 2010, a remarkable coalition of religious leaders and lay people emerged to oppose the outrageous plans of the Dove World Outreach Church to stage a public burning of the Qur’an. The Dove World plans threatened to cast the pall of religious hatred over our community; the actions taken to thwart these plans opened doors and hearts to one another in love and respect. What had threatened to become a grave embarrassment became instead a moment of unity and pride.
Many members of this informal interfaith coalition pledged to continue their new found friendship and cooperation without waiting for the next crisis. And now, representatives of sixteen different Gainesville area congregations, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, begin to fulfill this promise by announcing the formation of the Interfaith Habitat House Working Group. This group, in partnership with Alachua Habitat for Humanity, our local affiliate of the international organization, will build a home for a needy family in the community. I have been among the charter members of this group, along with leaders of Congregation B’nai Israel, and P’nai Or Congregation.
The Interfaith Habitat House Working Group has a site already chosen for this building project, which we hope to be just the first of many. Our first site is in the Celebration Oaks neighborhood, which includes a number of other Habitat homes. We have a partner family that has been interviewed and selected by Alachua Habitat for Humanity. Together with our partner family, we have held a service of site dedication. We have received pledges of over two-thirds of the $65,000 needed to make this dream a reality (including a pledge of $2500 from Temple Shir Shalom that I will be asking your help to fulfill). Now we are asking congregations, clergymen and women, and all people of good faith throughout the community to step forward and support this effort with contributions of time, money, and the physical effort of construction. Please contact me at email@example.com to see what you can do to help.
Rabbi Michael Joseph
Scenes from the Interfaith Habitat House site dedication on February 25.