NORTHBROOK, Ill. – Our Lady of the Brook Church in Northbrook took on a slightly different sound in September, as prayers were sung in Hebrew and the shofar sounded.
The parish hosted the Northbrook-based Shir Hadash Reconstructionist Synagogue’s high holy days services in its worship space, after working through archdiocesan channels to get permission.
Dominican Sister Joan McGuire, director of the Office for Interreligious and Ecumenical Affairs, said that it generally would not be considered appropriate for a Catholic church, considered a sacred space, to be used for worship in another religious tradition. But in this case it worked out, in part because Our Lady of the Brook does not have a permanent dedicated worship space.
Masses at the parish are celebrated in a large multipurpose room, and the parish sometimes removes religious furnishings such as the Stations of the Cross for social events, said Father Thomas Moran, pastor.
Getting archdiocesan permission took about eight weeks, and the question went all the way to Cardinal Francis E. George, according to Deacon Peery Duderstadt, who was the parish’s point person on the issue.
Rabbi Eitan Weiner-Kaplow of Shir Hadash said the 12-year-old congregation has met for Sabbath services in several Northbrook-area Christian churches, and, in the past has held Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at a country club. But the congregation now numbers about 700 for the high holy day services.
To prepare the worship space, church staff covered the altar, baptismal font, statues and icons with cloth and removed the Stations of the Cross and all other movable items that make the space a Christian worship space. It was converted back for weekend Masses.
The high holy days include Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish year 5768, this year starting at sundown Sept. 12, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, 10 days later. The days in between are called the “days of awe” and are when Jews face up to their mistakes, make amends, resolve to live better in the coming year, and ask forgiveness from others and God.
In an interview between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Rabbi Weiner-Kaplow said everything was going well, and he hoped the synagogue could use the church again.
“We’ve had a very warm welcome,” he said.