DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

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January 2, 2014

Interfaith campus a successful study in faith

Church, synagogue share more than physical space

DERRY — It’s a successful partnership rooted in faith and friendship.

The congregations of the Church of the Transfiguration and Etz Hayim Synagogue both have individual spaces adjacent to one another on Hood Road and share both a close physical and spiritual proximity to one another.

It’s a community effort that not only joins two faiths for religious events and social activities, but also honors different beliefs.

That’s why this unique bond made the “603 Reasons” list for why New Hampshire is special.

The relationship between church and synagogue began in 1992, when Etz Hayim’s growing population started holding its worship services in Church of the Transfiguration space.

Church of the Transfiguration hosted its services on Sundays and Etz Hayim would hold its services on Saturdays. The schedule worked well for both sides.

The successful relationship continued until Etz Hayim planned construction of its own building. Church of the Transfiguration offered an adjacent piece of its property and the new synagogue opened its doors next door on Hood Road in 2009.

The two are still joined.

Many parishioners refer to the two places of worship on Hood Road as “the churchagogue,” one of the few interfaith campuses in the United States, members say.

Rabbi Bryna Milkow is the first female rabbi at Etz Hayim Synagogue. She came on board in 2011, following the retirement of Rabbi Louis Rieser.

She is only the third rabbi in Etz Hayim’s history.

Milkow said sharing both community activities and faith-based events makes the relationship unique. She joined with the Rev. Ray Bonin of the Church of the Transfiguration last year to celebrate a new joint sign honoring the two congregations.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said during the sign dedication. “It’s very exciting, very unique and special. I’m glad to be part of it.”

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