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With financial support from the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union

Fondi Otto per Mille della Chiesa Evangelica Valdese

With financial support by Society Integration Foundation (SIF)


“Genesis of Ann Arbor”, Julian Voloj

Picture 1 of 4


My best friend was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and she introduced me to this very unusual cooperation between a church and a synagogue. Both congregations share the same space, and live peacefully side-by-side. And not only this, they also cooperate with a Muslim organization to help people in need.
Xenophobia against non-Christian religious groups has been a key challenge in Europe for centuries. I tell the story of this unique cooperation in the form of a photo-graphic novel. I hope it is inspiring for other Europeans, and I hope that the rhetorical question at the end can be answered one day with a “no”.


Julian was born in Germany to Colombian parents. He frequently writes for the Swiss weekly “Tachles”.

Page 1

1. Ann Arbor is known for many things.

2. Its university.

3. Its football team.

4. Its world class deli.

5. Lesser known is a project called Genesis.

6. The book of Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It is shared by Jews and Christians alike.

7. The perfect name for the partnership of…

8. … a synagogue and a church.

Page 2

1. Rabbi Robert Levy. /  We have a good cooperation, but each congregation maintains its own identity as a religious group.

2. However, several times a year there are joint celebrations such as the pre-thanksgiving service.

3. Temple offices / Church offices

4. Reverent James Rhodenhiser. / This joint arrangement of over 30 years demonstrates that people of different faiths can live and work together in harmony.

5. Everything began in 1970. The newly founded temple Beth Emeth was looking for a place to pray and was offered to rent rooms at St. Clare of Assisi, an episcopal church. It was a win-win situation. The church earned extra money by renting out its rooms, for the Jewish reform congregation it was cheaper to rent than to purchase its own building.

Page 3

1. The cooperation went smoothly and in 1974, St. Clare offered to sell 50% of its building to Beth Emeth to make the partnership permanent.

2. 2 years later “Genesis” was incorporated to manage this cooperation.

3. The main prayer hall is a simple room. With a few moves, opening and rearranging the doors…

4…. it can be converted from a Christian one…

5…. into a Jewish one.

6. I know it’s unusual, but I don’t see why it should not work elsewhere.

Page 4

1. America is a continent of immigrants. Our identity is diverse. It’s important to be a good citizen. / St. Clare and Beth Emeth were pioneers. Today nearly a dozen cooperations between churches and synagogues exist in North America.

2. Part of the American diversity is a growing Muslim population. / Together, the three faith groups provide services to the needy. No questions ask.

3.Only in America?