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. 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 programs include 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 (and included a reporter and photographer from the LA Times.) Each program features one or more 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 their hope that by participating in these monthly excursions, people from all backgrounds, faith 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) 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 faith 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,” said Stanley L. Knee, an Interfaith activist.
For more information or to sign up for one of the tours please visit
Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and is a contributing writer for Jlife.
As a Reform congregation, Wilshire Boulevard Temple has been responding to the needs of the Los Angeles Jewish community since its founding in 1862 as Congregation B’nai B’rith, the first synagogue in Los Angeles. Today, Wilshire Boulevard Temple is many things: a center for Jewish spirituality and celebration, a place for lifelong learning and friendship, and an engaged congregation where every person makes a difference. There are now two locations to serve local families: the historic Erika J. Glazer Family Campus in Wilshire Center/Koreatown, and the modern Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus in West Los Angeles. Wilshire Boulevard Temple offers services and worship, adult programs, life cycle events, volunteer and social action opportunities, cultural events, and learning to its members. Many of its cultural activities are open to the wider public. “We take very seriously the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and we work hard to carry it out in the wider Los Angeles community. We look forward to serving our neighbors of all faiths and providing liberal Jewish inspiration and resources to the Jews of Los Angeles for many generations to come.”
For more information please visit www.wbtla.org.
Islamic Society of Orange County
The Islamic Society of Orange County (ISOC) was established in 1976. ISOC is the largest Muslim community center in Southern California, serving more than 10,000 Muslims throughout the area. Located in Garden Grove, California, the ISOC is situated among ISOC’s 5.2 acres and is the full-time accredited K-8 Orange Crescent School (OCS). The ISOC is also a nonprofit organization that caters to the needs of the Muslim community by providing educational seminars, religious services and a communal room for special occasions and events. ISOC offers a variety of services to the community, including educational, religious, matrimonial, counseling, funeral and more, and enjoys an active youth group. Over the years, ISOC and OCS have earned a prosperous reputation within the Muslim, interfaith, and broader communities.
For more information please visit www.isocmasjid.org.
St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral
The history of the Greeks of Los Angeles is the story of the dreams and aspirations of young immigrants willing to risk all to come to an unknown faraway place. Unlike their more established compatriots on the East Coast, the Greeks of the west did not have the comfort of an established “Greek Town” or community to welcome them. By the late 1890s, there was a small cluster of Greeks living in the Boyle Heights area, along with other immigrant groups including Russians, Syrians, Armenians and East European Jews. The first church services were held in Los Angeles as early as 1906 in a small warehouse located at 730 North Broadway. Within two years, church services moved to 240 Anderson Street. Services were conducted by visiting Orthodox clergy from San Francisco during those years. The Los Angeles Greek Community was formally incorporated on June 14, 1908. The Cathedral has been declared an historical monument of the City of Los Angeles. The Cathedral continues to evolve and it no longer stands alone, but has a pivotal position in the surrounding community of the Byzantine-Latino Quarter (BLQ). Plans for the C.E.S. (Cultural, Educational, Sports) Complex are being finalized as it looks forward to future generations to come.
For more information please visit www.stsophia.org.
First African Methodist
First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME), Los Angeles is the oldest church founded by African Americans in the City of Angels. In 1872, Ms. Biddy Mason received “the vision from G-d to establish a church that would minister to the mind, body and soul of all who would join that small band of believers.” That vision and small band of believers has grown to what is now a congregation of more than 19,000 members and several dozen ministries within 13 corporations that bless and reach tens of thousands of seekers in greater metropolitan Los Angeles. Built on the foundation laid by Bishop Richard Allen who in the City of Philadelphia in 1787 started the movement that later became the African Methodist Episcopal Church, FAME Church finds joy in being the “First To Serve.”
For more information please visit famechurch.org.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan
Sanstha Mandir (Hindu)
Inspired by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, a handful of devotees began conducting weekly assemblies in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In 1984, His Holiness inaugurated the first BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Whittier, California, a small suburb just outside of Los Angeles. “With the guidance and blessings of His Holiness, the congregation grew from just a handful of families to a strong group of dedicated devotees who yearned for spiritual growth.” In 2000, His Holiness visited the current site of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Chino Hills and invigorated the congregation’s desire to build a traditional Hindu Mandir. By maintaining faith and patience, the congregation completed with Haveli building (more commonly known as the Visitors Center) in 2007. In 2012, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Chino Hills was dedicated and opened with great joy. This Mandir is the fifth traditional Hindu Mandir in North America.
For more information please visit www.baps.org.
Hsi Lai Buddist Temple
The temple’s Ming (1268-1644 C. E.) and Ching (1644-1911 C.E.) dynasty architecture is faithful to the traditional style of buildings, gardens and statuary of traditional ancient Chinese monasteries. The ten-year planning and construction was completed in 1988. Hsi Lai Temple now encompasses 15 acres and a floor area of 102,432 square feet. Hsi Lai means “coming to the West” and signifies the dedication of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order to spread the teachings of the Buddha to those in the West. Hsi Lai Temple was built to serve as a spiritual and cultural center for those interested in learning more about Buddhism and the Chinese culture. Its founder, Venerable Master Hsing Yun is recognized world-wide for his dedication in promoting Humanistic Buddhism which embraces all traditions and schools and stresses the salient teachings of the Buddha, which are relevant to and essential for the well being and progress of humanity in modern times. “Hsi Lai is committed to serving as a bridge between East and West so that the Buddha’s teachings of kindness, compassion, joyfulness, and equanimity might be integrated into our lives and of those around us to the benefit of all and that we might learn the ways to cultivate the wisdom to clearly understand the true nature of all things.”
For more information please visit www.hsilai.org.