Two faiths break ground on Tree of Life Sanctuary


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Posted November 6, 2020 |

Temple Beth Shalom Rabbi Ze’ev Harari and First Congregational United Church of Christ Pastor Dr. Harold W. McSwain break ground on the Tree of Life Sanctuary in October. [Courtesy of churches]

Temple Beth Shalom and First Congregational United Church of Christ, both of Ocala, broke ground on their new Tree of Life Sanctuary in mid-October.

Dedicated to the principle of Tikkun Olam, which in Hebrew means “Healing the World,” the two congregations are creating a facility where they can share worship space and conduct their educational, social justice and artistic endeavors.

The new sanctuary will be located on 80th Avenue in Southwest Ocala as one of the founding ventures in the new Calesa Township, a 5,000 home, multi-age housing development that will include a charter school, retail facilities, and the new Florida Aquatics Swimming and Training Center. Calesa Township was unveiled earlier this year by Colen Built Development, a sister company of On Top of the World Communities Inc.

Responding to the imperatives of their respective religious traditions to help heal the world, the two congregations are partnering to promote understanding and to bridge bridging differences by advancing meaningful and transformative interfaith dialogue, according to a press release from the two groups.

The effort is intended to “create and promote sanctuary that is a ‘safe and sacred’ space of great hope and inspiration for our respective and mutual futures,” the release states. “We can accomplish together, both in resources and public witness, what could never be accomplished alone.”

The church’s pastor, Dr. Harold W. McSwain, and the temple’s rabbi, Rabbi Ze’ev Harari have been close colleagues for over a decade, having not only served each other’s congregations, but have worked closely to foster interfaith dialogue and cooperation with other faith traditions, as well.