Bill Shane is one of those warm, engaging, feels-like-he-already-knows-you-and-is-giving-you-a-hug-through-the-phone type of person. Needless to say, it was a joy speaking with him and I learned all about the Interfaith House of Worship Tour that takes place right here in Orange County! The purpose of these tours is to learn about and celebrate the rich tapestry of faiths in Southern California, and to promote respect and understanding among all races, religions and cultures. Some of the past programs with the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) included monthly visits to more than 40 religious centers in Southern California, plus ethnic festivals; nationally recognized youth diversity and leadership programs; Interfaith Councils; Community Issues Forums, and the remarkable Interfaith Trip to Israel and Jordan, led by local Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders. The House of Worship Tour is a program of the Orange County Interfaith Network and involves a resident scholar(s) in that faith tradition, as well as an expert on the history and architecture of the host venue and, lunch is included too! It is the hope of Founders and Co-Directors Bill Shane and Sue Smith that by participating in these monthly excursions, people from all backgrounds, faiths, traditions and communities will be better able to understand their neighbors and achieve a greater understanding and appreciation for the diversity and richness of our community.
Bill has an extensive background, in which he was the executive director for the National Conference for Community and Justice (formerly National Conference of Christians and Jews) and Executive Director for both Temple Bat Yahm and Temple Beth Sholom in addition to many more roles. But now he is able to fulfill his passion and help others enrich their life by experiencing the beauty and diversity of the religious, ethnic and cultural landscape that is Southern California. “The Interfaith House of Worship Tour challenges people of all faiths, traditions and all backgrounds to meet and engage with people from other traditions and other backgrounds in order to build bridges of understanding and mutual respect and cooperation. This is not always easy or comfortable, but it is vital for our society,” said Mr. Shane.
This program is bringing together people from all different walks of life for one common purpose, to learn. In these times I think it’s something we need a lot more of. No matter your political beliefs, we live in a divided world where our information is funneled to us through websites and social media. It’s easy to demonize people when you don’t know them, but the more we shed light and learn from people about their faith, religion, food, architecture, family life, etc. the more tolerance we will have for our neighbors, both in our backyard and across the sea. “…Ignorance tends to breed hate and violence…Knowing how other people behave, what they believe and why they live the way they do can enrich your own sense of identity. It forces you to substantiate your thinking. This tour does more than introduce people to religious diversity. Because spirituality influences nearly all aspects of life, it becomes a springboard for cultural and social bonding,” Stanley L. Knee, Interfaith activist.
For more information or to sign up for one of the tours please visit www.houseofworshiptour.com.
Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and currently works for the CEO and President of Jewish Federation & Family Services.