Religious Diversity and Inclusion Come to Life in Jenkintown Community

"We had nearly 100 people at our Seder meal this year," says Irv Leventhal, a resident at Rydal Park in Jenkintown, "and you can bet that many of them weren't Jewish."

Irv is proud of his Jewish faith, and he chose to live at Rydal Park because of how inclusive and diverse the campus is. "Our neighbors come from all faith traditions. While the outside world argues over whose religion is right, here at Rydal Park, we take the time to learn about each other's beliefs." For this reason, the Rydal Park community is among the most inclusive and diverse places for people 62 and better in the Philadelphia region.

Our neighbors come from all faith traditions. While the outside world argues over whose religion is right, here at Rydal Park, we take the time to learn about each other's beliefs.

Irv Leventhal, Rydal Park resident

Rydal Park is part of Presby's Inspired Life. With a name like that, many assume that the campus appeals only to members of the Presbyterian denomination. However, once you step through the doors, you soon learn that a large number of Rydal Park's residents are of varied faiths, including many who are Jewish. At the community, embracing diversity really starts at the grassroots. Recently, residents and team members formed a "Diversity Council" of individuals who are committed to building a community where each other's cultures are respected and revered.

"One of the real strengths of the Rydal Park community is our great diversity of faith traditions," says Tom Summers, chaplain. Tom embraces the diversity of Rydal Park, holding weekly interfaith scripture studies that utilize different texts, sponsoring an ongoing comparative religion class and providing regular worship services for residents of all faiths.

Observing holidays is also important for Tom and the residents. For instance, during the month of September, the campus will host events celebrating Rosh Hashanah and honoring Yom Kippur and come October the annual sukkah building will mark the festive holiday of Sukkot. These occasions not only offer a time for Jewish residents to worship, but also to educate and share.

Rabbi Howard Bogot, another Rydal Park resident, is a proponent of such education. By day, he instructs students at Penn State Abington on Jewish studies. In the evenings, he shares his talent for teaching with other residents, presenting on a wide range of topics related to Judaism. At one of his latest classes, he had close to 70 attendees, many of which hailed from diverse faith traditions. "I don't teach people how to be Jewish; rather, I discuss life experiences from a Jewish perspective. Sharing our different views helps to build community and create understanding. It's something I wish the world at large would practice a bit more of."

ABOUT PRESBY'S INSPIRED LIFE Presby's Inspired Life is a not-for-profit, faith-based organization that provides continuing care and Affordable Housing for more than 3,000 people 62 and better, across more than 30 communities throughout greater Philadelphia.

Source: Presby's Inspired Life

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