Detroit synagogue to get a new lease of life.
A Detroit church that once existed as a historic synagogue will likely serve as a community and interfaith center, thanks to the efforts of Jews and Christians in the area. The objective is to model the center as a symbol of racial and religious unity. The renovated structure will go by the name of “Bethel Community Transformation Center.”
According to Pastor Aramis Hinds of the Breakers Covenant Church International, the former synagogue and present church serves as a strong foundation of the Christian faith. To elaborate his point, he pointed out to a painting of the Ten Commandments and the Christian study of the Old Testament within the building.
Hinds used these examples to indicate the similarities between Jews and Christians, especially with regard to values.
The pastor believes that the new center will serve as a symbol of reconciliation among both groups.
The original synagogue, called Temple Beth El, was designed by Albert Kahn, a reputed architect during his time. It hosted the first of Detroit’s Jewish congregations between 1922 and 1973. The structure is made up of Limestone columns on the outside and a dome on the inside that is decorated with paintings of Jewish leaders and customs through the centuries.
The main sanctuary was constructed to host over 1,000 people. It was this sanctuary that was later converted into a church known as the Lighthouse Cathedral. Eventually, other churches found their home here as well. In 2014, Hinds purchased the location for his church.
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However, Jews in the area have been using the church premises, which still possess the old paintings and most of the original architectural elements, for their services.
The Jewish congregation and church members are currently planning to host a Seder meal at the historic location towards the end of the week.
The renovation is being seen as an attempt from the local Jews to re-establish themselves in the city, which has seen the Jewish population dwindle in the last few decades. Currently, there is only one freestanding synagogue in Detroit.
One of the key figures leading this movement is Ariana Silverman, a 39-year-old who serves as the rabbi for the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. In fact, she is the synagogue’s first rabbi in 16 years.
According to Ariana, the renovation will allow fellow Jews to continue having a connection with Detroit. To serve her community’s purpose, the rabbi continues to build and strengthen relations with leaders from African-American churches all over the city.
During the summer, she even had her son’s bris conducted at Hinds’ church.