Temple Beth Israel
6622 N. Maroa
Fresno, California 93704
Target Groups: Adults, Multi-generational Social Action Program
Temple Beth Israel is located in an area with few Jews, an area that is claimed by the Christian Right as one of its strongholds. In response to a flood of missionaries in the public schools, the synagogue decided to help create an interreligious coalition, called the Interfaith Alliance of Central California. After considerable investment in organizing, the first meeting took place in the fall of 1997. The group meets monthly, and it has attracted Reform and Conservative Jews, Unitarian-Universalists, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Latter-Day Saints, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and Orthodox Christians. Representatives of Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Science, and Bahai have also participated, as have representatives of the gay and lesbian community.
The Alliance has successfully pressed the Fresno Unified School District to adopt a new policy on religion in the schools, a policy that has become a model for the nation. It organized an alternative to the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, an exclusively Christian event, called "The Fourth of July Diversity Breakfast," and where 200 people were expected, more than 800 attended. And it sponsors, with active Jewish participation, several interfaith programs, including a "get out the vote" campaign and a program in celebration of human rights.
The Fain Award is presented to Temple Beth Israel in appreciation of its successful efforts at breaking down barriers, building bridges, defending the separation of church and state, and providing a creative alternative to religious extremism.