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Youths explore different faiths during tour of Oklahoma City places of worship

Young people visited a Jewish temple, a Sikh gurdwara and a Christian church Sunday during the 2013 Interfaith Youth Tour sponsored by the Oklahoma Conference of Churches.
BY CARLA HINTON Modified: September 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm •  Published: September 23, 2013

Young people donned headscarves and slipped off their shoes Sunday to enter a Sikh house of worship — most of them for the first time.

They crowded into a sukkah built on the grounds of a Jewish temple and listened to a musician sing a praise and worship song at the altar of a Christian church.

About 190 youths and their adult advisers experienced the sights, sounds and flavors of religions other than their own at the 2013 Interfaith Youth Tour sponsored by the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. The youths toured Temple B'nai Israel, 4901 N Pennsylvania; the Sikh Gurdwara of Oklahoma, 4525 NW 16; and Frontline Church, 1104 N Robinson.

The Rev. William Tabbernee, the conference's executive director, said the 2013 tour drew the largest crowd since the event was first held several years ago.

He told the crowd that the tour's popularity was not without its challenges: organizers realized just a few days before the event that numerous headscarves would be needed for the visit to the Sikh gurdwara where both men and women are required to wear head coverings.

“I think we've got it all covered, no pun intended,” Tabbernee said to the youths.

The tour started at Temple B'nai, where Vered Harris is rabbi. Both Harris and Abby Jacobson, rabbi of Emanuel Synagogue, answered the visitors' questions, after several Jewish youths shared information about Judaism with their non-Jewish counterparts.

Harris showed the youths the temple's sacred Torah scrolls. The visiting group also learned about Sukkot, the Feast of Booths. The Jewish festival began at sundown Sept. 18 and ends at sundown Wednesday. The tour group gathered for a short time in the temple's sukkah, a hut-like structure used in ancient times during the harvest season. Harris said many Jews build sukkahs in their backyards and sleep in them during Sukkot while others build them at their house of worship.

When John Wheeler, youth and young adult minister of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Enid, asked about Harris' views on homosexuality, she said that gays and lesbians are people who are created in the image of God.

The rabbi thanked the visitors for asking questions, even those about touchy issues.

“Don't be shy about asking tough questions. It's how you are going to grow and learn,” she said.

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