Conversations at the Mall

You may know that I grew up in Argentina. When I was seven years old, my mother of blessed memory, took me to one of the Jewish clubs so I could start playing soccer. In fact not soccer but indoor soccer.

I played indoor soccer for many years but when I was 15 years old I decided to play outdoor soccer, aka futbol, as well.

I discovered a completely different sport, with different rules, different ball size, and a different number of players. The essence of the game was the same, but indoor futbol and outdoor futbol were different. It didn’t feel the same.

A couple of months ago I started to accomplish one of my rabbinical goals. It has been one of my dreams. Be part of an ongoing interfaith conversation. I contacted a Catholic Monsignor, a Buddhist monk and a Muslim Imam and invited them to have lunch together at the Montgomery Mall. Before I tell you details of the day, I want to tell you that it was a great experience.   We agreed to meet on Presidents Day in the busy food court on a holiday for many in the Washington area. I arrived a half hour early to make sure we had a table to sit and talk. And we did talk about ourselves, our life experiences and our traditions.

In just 90 minutes we learned a lot from each other. I learned, for example, that the monk eats only two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, and he needs to finish his meal before noon every day. After that, he only consumes liquids.  I also learned that some people gain weight during Ramadan. Every night of Ramadan the Muslim community gathers together at the Mosque for a communal meal and they wake up before sunrise for another meal. And I learned that there are two types of priests in the Catholic church, they are called secular priests and religious priests. So there was lots of learning, lots of information and also lots of interesting similarities and differences.

All four of us are clergy, leading our people in common ways. Inside our temples, mosques, churches and synagogues we can touch a limited number of people – our members and guests who choose to come to religious services. I was surprised that, sitting at a mall, we became approachable by random people. Many passersby stopped and engaged us. They wanted to express how they felt when they saw the group of us together. A number of people who were at the mall searching for a material gift, also found themselves with a spiritual gift.

They shared with us their optimistic words of hope and, words of encouragement.

Some told us that our country needs more bridges and fewer separations. Yet others shared their desire to be part of a better society, a better country and a better world. In Hebrew we call that, Tikkun Olam.

One Monsignor, one Monk, one Imam, one Rabbi.

One Christian, one Buddhist, one Muslim, one Jewish.

One born in the USA, one in Thailand, one in Iran, one in Argentina.

All of us with many things in common. All of us with the intention to create a better world.


We plan to continue meeting and continue building bridges among ourselves and among our communities.


We believe that in our own community it is possible to help build those bridges and contribute to making it a better world!!!



Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin


Yashar Koach. Beautiful and inspiring

Kol ha kavod! So very inspiring!

Marvin Yudkovitz

Wonderful teaching, and great photos.

Inspiring! This brought a big smile to my face. I sincerely hope that this concept spreads.

Sandra Cohen

That’s what the USA is supposed to look like. Wishing you all much success in the future.

I’m so glad you’ve gotten the ball rolling. Can you do a program at Beth El with this group as a panel? Then we all can benefit from your wonderful idea!

Laurie Minerbi

Wonderful! What the world needs more of now! Yashar Koach. Laurie and Walter Minerbi

Norton Elson

I was so interested in the engagement of passers-by. I think you touched many people by holding this meeting in public. Nicely done, on many levels. Keep it up.

Cinthia Rozanski

Kol hakavod! Thank you for leading us with your example to be part of bridges.

Deborah Pollack

Thanks for for efforts to create dialogue and break down bridges. Keep up the good work and I pray that we all follow in your footsteps.

Stephanie Ventura

Beautiful message. Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

Rebecca Bennett

Thank you for sharing. I commend your efforts and I welcome opportunities to come together in interfaith efforts too through Beth El. All of us could benefit from this type of learning and growth.

Adam G Chaikin

Transformed my day for the better. Thank you

Eric Forseter

Great message, great meeting, and great meaning.

Very inspiring. I remember learning a lot and really enjoying the times I chaperoned the 8th (or 9th) grade Religious School field trips to the local Catholic and Presbyterian churches and to the Hindu Temple.

lovely. we need so much more of this in our world. I hope these seeds grow and blossom. and may many others follow you.

Well done. Building bridges is an important priority in today’s convoluted world. Congratulations.

Wonderful. I especially note the empty chair, now for Elijah, perhaps later for unplanned guests. After you four have met for a while, perhaps you can sit at a table for six or more so you can invite others in the food court to join you for serendipitous inspiration.

Daniel Bender

Positively fantastic!

Oh wow what a great story – wish I had been at the mall to say hello. thanks for sharing this.

Sitting in the sun of Mexico and loved reading your article. With all that is going on in the world. this was truly an inspiring story.

Marsha Rehns

You are exceptional. A credit to Beth El and to Judaism.

Lois Zuckerman

Great idea to meet, especially at the mall. Thank you.

Brenda Schmand

Mazel Tov. What a fabulous addition you are to Beth El and to the entire community. One small step for mankind ….

Dena Forster

Rabbi, Yasher Koach. From the photos and your story I know that you listened attentively to each other. You didn’t just talk.

Could this have happened anywhere else in the world other than the US? Could this have happened among fundamentalists of any religion, i.e., those who are convinced that they have a monopoly on interpreting G-d’s word? Such a dialog requires both diversity and freedom, to say nothing of open mindedness and an eagerness to learn about others, recognizing that no one has a monopoly on truth and that multiple viewpoints often lead to new and valuable insights and can strengthen ones own understanding and beliefs, not threaten them. As Thomas Jefferson wrote (letter to William Canby, 18 September 1813) “I believe … that he who steadily observes those moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned, at the gates of heaven, as to the dogmas in which they all differ.”

Mara Clement

Lovely story!

Rita Liebowit

Always reaching higher and gathering us into a better place. You are a leader of spirit and deed. Thank you for inspiring a peaceful co-existence.

peggy v hirsch

A beautiful new tradition to start. Rabbi Werbin, you are an inspiration, thank you. May this continue.

Anne Rosensky

A truly inspired idea. The pictures are priceless.
Thank you for all your efforts.

Marilda W Averbug

Timely initiative; I hope it bears fruit involving the respective communities. Great pictures!

Kimberly Zeren

How perfect!! Truly a priceless interaction 😊

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