Black and Jewish leaders work to rekindle friendships at interfaith seder

Before the Passover feast began, a few dozen black Christians joined their Jewish dinnermates for a tour of the breathtaking original sanctuary of Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein explained the stories of the murals that circle the auditorium, stories that end in 1929, before two of the biggest events in recent Jewish history: the Holocaust and the founding of Israel. Standing where the Dalai Lama once spoke and where composer George Gershwin was bid an eternal farewell, Stein said the temple is a place where all humanity can share in life, from worship and study to concerts and lectures.

“This is a room for the whole city,” said Stein, the temple’s point person for a number of interfaith and intercultural seders. “You are not just welcome: You are members here, too.”

So began the April 17 seder, a gathering of a group of blacks and Jews who in recent months have sought to rekindle a decades-old friendship in hopes of fostering better relations among their broader communities. Sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), First AME Church, the Brotherhood Crusade and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the interfaith seder became the object of much anticipation earlier this month after one of its organizers was accused of being an anti-Semite.

On April 4, the Rev. Eric Lee, president and CEO of the SCLC’s Los Angeles chapter,