Practice Together

Engendering greater religious tolerance through ecumenism - the religious side of globalization

Article by Kathy Pinto

Photography by Alexandré Hooson

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

Since 1998, Rabbi Nadya Gross, along with her husband Rabbi Victor Gross, have been deeply committed to the creation of a Conscious Holy Community dedicated to practicing deep ecumenism. 

Pardes Levavot (Orchard of Hearts) is a Jewish Renewal Community, identified with a movement which aims to reinvigorate modern Judaism with Kabbalistic, Hasidic and musical practices. The name expresses the spiritual blossoming of each individual.

Since 2004 Boulder’s Pardes Levavot Synagogue and Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church have shared their sacred space, worshiped together, and collaborated on community projects to best serve the needs of all humanity, where they not only respect other religious paths, but collaborate with them.

Pastor Janet embraced the relationship when she was called to Shepherd in 2016. Her husband, Pastor Phil Kettering, who serves another Lutheran church, has also embraced the work. 

From the very start, the two congregations have contributed to social action work in the community—most specifically in keeping the CIP (Community Infant Program) room supplied and feeding scores of CIP families on Thanksgiving.

Over time they began to initiate study groups, reading books and sacred text together and learning more about one another by experiencing how each of them reflected on the content of the books. 

Any question was appropriate and welcomed when framed from curiosity and a desire to understand more deeply. They never encountered someone trying to prove their “truth” or make someone wrong. This has led to deep friendships and loving relationships among the members.

“Deep Ecumenism is a foundational principle taught by our teacher, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (whom we called Reb Zalman),” says Rabbi Nadya.

He was the grandfather of the movement for Jewish Renewal and occupied the World Wisdom chair at Naropa for many years. 

The work of Deep Ecumenism is one that seeks to understand, engage with and support the uniqueness of each religious tradition, while standing firmly in one’s own identity and faith.

“Reb Zalman taught us that we can and should find nourishment in traditions other than our own, urging us to undertake the more intrepid exploration of deep ecumenism in which one learns about oneself through participatory engagement with another religion or tradition.

According to Rabbi Nadya, one might say that the Jewish members of Pardes have become better Jews and the Lutherans of Shepherd have become better Lutherans. 

“Our unique faiths inspire one another.”

“It goes without saying that the clergy—in this moment, my husband Victor and myself, and Pastors Janet and her husband Phil—count one another among our dearest friends. People whom we can count on for spiritual and emotional support, and whom we trust completely.”

Pastor Janet relates that when she first came to Shepherd, the Ark which houses Pardes' Torah Scroll was always pushed to the back of the sanctuary, away from the altar area. It would then be moved back up, often moving the Shepherd’s cross, when Pardes gathered for their own worship. 

A Shepherd parishioner first posed the question of why the Ark containing the Torah Scroll was always tucked away.

That led to a decision to move it to the forefront, where it now stands prominent near the altar, together with the cross, as a sign of their commitment toward deep ecumenism.

“Little did we know what that seemingly "small" (but really quite great) gesture would mean to our congregations and our life together.”


Host a Kiddush (a Jewish blessing)
Join a Book Group with Shepherd of the Hills
Donate to The Little Free Pantry
Community Infant Program (CIP) 
Thanksgiving dinner baskets

100% of your donations to these ministries are used to provide food and King Sooper gift cards to those who are struggling.  

Rabbi Nadya Gross, Pardes Levavot

Pastor Janet Kettering, Shepherd of the Hills

To learn more about Deep Ecumenism: Yerusha.org

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