Sunday, September 15, 2013


AN INTERFAITH JOURNEY TO ISRAEL AND THE HOLY LAND” By Rabbi Seth L. Bernstein and Father Tomasz Borkowski


As a result of a local Jewish woman, Barbara Kupfer, meeting a Catholic travel agent, Dick Duffy, twenty-three Jews and Catholics from California, Maryland, and mostly Central Massachusetts traveled to Israel and viewed Jewish and Christian sites throughout the Holy Land from March 7-16. One of the co-leaders of the trip was Father Tomasz Borkowski, Chaplain at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and temporary resident at St. Rosa of Lima in Northborough where he is a full-time doctoral student at Boston College. The other co-leader of the group was Rabbi Seth L. Bernstein of Temple Sinai in Worcester who is also the Jewish Chaplain at UMASS-Memorial Hospital.
With Carol Ann Bernheim as the local guide, the group visited forty religious sites and 12 cities throughout Israel, including the town of Bethlehem in the Palestinian Authority. The trip covered the land of Israel from the Golan heights and the Galilee in the North, to Masada in the South, from the Dead Sea in the East to the Mediterranean Sea in the West. They traveled the 14 stations along the Via Delarosa in Jerusalem including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Gethsemane, and the Mt. of Olives. The group attended Kabbalat Shabbat (Welcoming the Sabbath festivities) on Friday evening with prayers and dancing at the Western Wall. They celebrated Mass in Capernum on Sunday morning at the Church of St. Peter above the site of the house of Peter’s mother- in-law where Jesus visited and spent the night. Next door to the church is a fourth century C.E. Byzantine era synagogue built upon the remains of a synagogue from the time of Jesus.
The group visited a number of museums: the Museum of the Diaspora, Yad Vashem—the memorial to the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust,--and the sites at the ancient port of Caesarea that flourished before, during, and after the time of Jesus In the fourth century Caesarea was the capital of the Holy Land. The group visited the Qumran cave area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and Masada, the first century fortress where the last group of Jews chose martyrdom rather than to surrender to the Romans who captured Masada soon after the destruction of the second Temple in 70 C.E. The group visited the archaeological site at Jericho, the oldest city in the Western World. Five couples renewed their wedding vows in a church in Cana, at the site of where Jesus and Mary attended a wedding and Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine.
Edith Morgan of Worcester said, “This interfaith experience as we delved more and more deeply into the layers of our faith has given us a deeper understanding and dedication to each other.” Ed and Sharon Bouvier of Northboro shared, “We could not have imagined renewing our vows at the site of Jesus’s first miracle with a priest and then receiving a special blessing from a rabbi.” Bob and Betty Verrengia said the renewal of vows was one of the most spiritual feelings of the trip. Rita Lawrence of Northboro said it was a great experience walking in the footsteps of Jesus and sharing the rich history of Israel and the Jewish religion.” For Deacon Patrick Stewart of Whitinsville, “This trip to the Holy Land was one trip I felt called to do.” Finally, Lee Zawacki, of Northboro said, “The eyes of my heart opened up.” All of our eyes opened up throughout the ten days we traveled a. most memorable spiritual journey.

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