By: David Kovacs & Steve Ordower
It was a Sunday 11:15 a.m. Mass. As always, worship began with the penitential rite, a shared meditative moment of confession. But this time, the music heard was Kol Nidre.
In two days, it would be the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when this haunting melody would touch Jews around the world. Rabbi Ari Moffic joined Father Pat McGrath to offer a blessing. She described the meaning of this introduction to the holiest of days as she invited the church to share the moment together. “It was profoundly spiritual,” she reflected. “For Catholics, it was a deeply meaningful way to experience that penitential part of the Mass. And for interfaith families, they could interweave these parts of their lives and their heritages through this music that’s part of their hearts and souls.”
We captured this remarkable event in a new video from our documentary in progress, Leaps of Faiths (www.leapsoffaiths.org). This project is a true “Leap” for us – we’re telling stories about interfaith families, the choices they make, and their hopes for their kids and their spiritual lives together. Our film will respect any choice a family makes, while taking a closer look at what happens for those who decide to share both faith traditions. Over a generation, we’ve seen they can raise children who grow up far from confused; indeed many often develop deeper connections to one or both religions.
For almost 30 years, Old St. Pat’s has become a spiritual home to many of them: a Catholic community where Judaism is valued and honored, liturgically and educationally. Much of our footage is from the Family School, hosted by Old St. Pat’s and run by interfaith families whose children grow though grades K-8 learning both faiths, taught by their parents.
Another arc of our story is what happens when clergy regularly co-officiate. Father John Cusick and Rabbi Chava Bahle led the first Kol Nidre experience at Old St. Pat’s a few years ago. For many years at Old St. Pat’s, under the leadership of Jack Wall and Tom Hurley, and at some Chicago area synagogues, rabbis and priests have often stood side-by-side. They have led worship and celebrated sacraments and rites of passage.
As they make interfaith families feel welcome, they also enhance these experiences for Jews and Christians together, breaking down divisions in polarized times. As one parishioner said after praying to the melody of Kol Nidre, “The way the world is going, this is what we need. Seeing this it gives me a little bit more hope.”
We hear her voice in the video, along with clergy, interfaith parents and kids, reflecting about the experience. “There is a fear that if a family wants to raise children with a dual faith identity that their children will be confused about an authentic Jewish expression,” says Rabbi Moffic. “Interfaith education programs like the Family School show that these families want Judaism in their lives in real ways and seek it out. It’s incumbent upon Jewish leaders to support and foster that.”
These are the kinds of questions we’ll raise in the film. We hope you’ll enjoy this video and the others on our website. And if you’d consider donating to help make the dream of this project a reality, we would love to add your name to our growing list of supporters.
In this season of Advent, as Catholics wait for the light and Jews celebrate the Festival of Lights (in fact, this year the first night of Chanukah is Christmas Eve), we hope this video shines even more light on the hospitality of Old St. Patrick’s Church.
David Kovacs and Steve Ordower are the co-producers of Leaps of Faiths, and also interfaith parents from the Family School. David and his wife Patty are one of the school’s founding families.