Tag Archives: Tri-Faith Initiative

Look to the Skies

August 9, 2018 by

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Pick of the Week—Saturday, August 11: It’s that time again! Time for the Nebraska Balloon and Wine Festival, and this year is bigger and better than ever. The expanded event has a new location at Leo Royal Park, just south of 204th Street and Cornhusker Road. Need a reminder of what to expect? Well, there’s hot air balloons, live music, good food and drink, shopping, paragliders, skydivers, and a KidZone area—with pony rides! If you’re lucky, on Saturday you can take a helicopter ride around the area. And of course, there’s the wine. And beer. And if you make it to the end, the beautiful, glowing hot air balloons. Get your tickets from Local Stubs here.

Friday, August 10: You know how we love partying for a good reason, and the Holy Smokes BBQ 2018 is giving us one this weekend. This annual celebration has been going strong for 13 years. This year is no different, as they will have everyone’s favorite local cover band, Secret Weapon, serving up tunes. North Omaha’s famous icy treat station, The Cooler, will be slinging sno-balls to help beat the heat alongside that sweet barbecue buffet. It all goes down at the Diamond Room in NoDo. For more information or to support the Heart Ministry Center click here. If you would like to purchase tickets to the event please email Angeles Llanas here.

Saturday, August 11: There are so many talented artists and makers in Omaha, it’s hard to take them all in. But this weekend there’s just one art show you need to get to. North Omaha Summer Arts presents An Arts Crawl 7 this Friday evening from 6-9 p.m. Started by local artist Pamela Jo Berry because she thought her neighborhood needed more art options, the event is now on its seventh year (hence the “7”). Get out and experience the arts, music, and yes, food, Berry’s neighbors have to offer. Check it out here.

Saturday, August 11 to Sunday, August 12: Thinking about teaching your old (or new) dog some tricks? You may want to check out DogstockOmaha this weekend for some pointers. If you don’t already have a dog, don’t fret. Rescue groups will be out in full force promoting adoptions of their adorable pooches. Did we mention Canines in the Clouds will have three separate performances each day? Those dogs will be diving off docks, chasing frisbees, and even climbing walls. Plus you can pick up a new collar for your favorite doggo. Sniff out more info here.

Sunday, August 12: Hosted by Omaha’s Tri-Faith Initiative, the Tri-Faith Picnic will provide an afternoon of food, fun, and fellowship. It kicks off at 12:30 p.m. and goes until 3 p.m. With face-painting, balloon artists, games, and a bounce house, the kiddos are sure to find something to keep them entertained while the big kids commune. Halal burgers and kosher hot dogs will be provided. Please bring a side dish or dessert to share (but no pork, shellfish or gelatin please!), and a jar or two of peanut butter to donate to the Countryside Community Cupboard. The Tri-Faith Initiative is made up of individuals who practice one of three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and strive to promote acceptance in trust in the community. Learn more about the organization and its upcoming events here.


Rabbi Azriel

May 14, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Rabbi Aryeh Azriel has led Omaha’s reform Jewish congregation, Temple Israel Synagogue, since 1988. Along the way he’s become known for his social justice advocacy and for his efforts building bridges to other faith communities. He’s a board member of the ground-breaking Tri-Faith Initiative that’s bringing the three Abrahamic traditions together on the same campus. Temple Israel represents the Jewish tradition in the endeavor.

After putting his liberal stamp on Omaha, Azriel has signed his last three-year contact. His retirement takes effect in June 2016. This good shepherd wants the best for his flock and successor. Therefore, after he steps down he and his wife, Elyce, (they’re parents to two adult children) will move to Chicago, where they have strong ties, rather than be a distraction here.
“I want to see the congregation continue to thrive with someone else,” he says, “and sometimes there is a challenge when the emeritus rabbi stays in the same city. It’s important to have a rabbi running this congregation without an emeritus rabbi breathing down their neck. There’s definitely a need for me to not only step aside but to move to another place so the new person, whether male or female, has some independence to do things their own way.”


When his time at Temple is done he will leave behind some tangible results, starting with the new synagogue building near 132nd and Pacific that opened last summer in the Sterling Ridge mixed-use development. The temple is the first completed element of the Tri-Faith campus being developed there. Azriel has been a driving force for his progressive congregation bearing witness to interfaith acceptance and communion. The temple will soon be joined by a neighboring mosque, a Christian church, and an interfaith center.

The contemporary modern, glass-sheathed new home replaced the previous facility at 70th and Cass that the nearly 800-family congregation outgrew years ago. It marked the first time in his career the native of Israel oversaw a new building project.

“It’s really a once in a lifetime experience,” Azriel says. “Many people in the congregation took part in this process.”

After years planning and praying the consensus is the open, Prairie-style structure is a good thing.

“The feedback on the building from the congregation is amazing,” he says. “We created exactly what we needed.”

The building, bathed in natural light from many windows, includes high tech features, but Azriel says it’s rooted in tradition. For example, leading to the main sanctuary are two facing modular walls—one a memorial bearing the names of members who’ve passed away and the other the stained glass windows that adorned the old sanctuary.


“I think it’s extremely important for any institution that serves people to always have a heart for the institutional memory. There must be a place where a new building will not avoid the past or prevent you from remembering it. This congregation was established in 1871, and so even with a new building we still have to have one eye back in the history. We’ve maybe updated the technology but it’s the same Judaism—the same traditions, the same customs.”

What the temple most needed was more space to accommodate folks at services, receptions, classes, and other events and the much larger synagogue accomplishes this. Beyond the greater numbers that can be served the spacious digs provide more opportunities
for interaction.

“This is definitely a communal experience,” he says. “It’s a house of study, a house of gathering and a house of prayer. It’s also a community gathering place for Jews and non-Jews. So it’s not just worship, it’s social justice, it’s adult and youth education, it’s making connections to churches in this area. I’m now creating relationships with some of the churches out here and it will be interesting to grow those relationships and to start something new.”

Just as he hoped, a central community square or commons area has become a focal point for people to hang out.

“We are finding that people are actually lingering because the space is so inviting. They want to stay longer and they like the schmoozing.”

Azriel doesn’t worry much about his legacy.

“It’s definitely not about bricks and mortar, it’s about relationships and hopefully about leaving a good name.”

He knows Temple’s contribution to the Tri-Faith campus represents just one part of an unfolding journey in understanding.

“This piece is done but the other pieces are extremely important too. To be able to create that community is another step. Some steps will be done before I leave and some will be done after I leave, and I’ll come back to see them bear fruit.”

For synagogue details, visit templeisraelomaha.com. Follow Tri-Faith Initiative news at trifaith.org.