(Austin, Texas - Tribune News Service) -- A rabbi and a reverend go on a road trip.
What sounds like the start of a joke is actually an effort by two Austin, Texas faith leaders to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s communities.
Rabbi Neil Blumofe of Congregation Agudas Achim in Northwest Austin and Assistant Pastor Daryl Horton of Mount Zion Baptist Church in East Austin will embark on a multistate road trip Monday, making stops at the Holocaust Museum in Houston; the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala.; and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.
Through confronting the historical trials and traumas of the Jewish and African-American communities, Blumofe and Horton hope to engage in meaningful dialogue and set a positive example for their congregations.
“All of our communities have painful moments. We have parts of our history that are hard to think about,” Horton said. “As faith leaders, (the trip) gives a good example to the people that we serve. It’s to let them know that it’s good to get outside of the box and to visit with people.”
Horton and Blumofe serve on the board of directors for Interfaith Action of Central Texas, a religious coalition that seeks to build relationships between faith communities. The two frequently attend each other’s worship services and organize events between their congregations.
Blumofe approached Horton with the idea of a road trip after hearing about the April opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which houses the nation’s first lynching memorial.
The two religious leaders say that reckoning with injustices of the past will help them contextualize current issues their communities face.
“I really wanted to work on and think about the questions that (the memorial) brings up,” Blumofe said. “How can we speak about justice in our community, how can we speak about economic success … if we don’t know the fears and anxieties and hopes that undergird every conversation that we have?”
Blumofe and Horton plan to document their trip through daily photos, videos and livestreams, similar to what U.S. Reps. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat, and Will Hurd, a Republican, both of Texas, did during their bipartisan, cross-country road trip last year that drew national attention.
The men will return to Austin before the end of the week and relay their experience to members of their congregations. They also will lead a discussion about the trip at an Interfaith Action of Central Texas event in October at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden.
“I think as the majority of the group (at Mount Zion) begins to learn about my trip, and especially when I get to come back and share stories and possibly share video … I think there’s going to be an interest for people to, if nothing else, visit some of these museums and … places and have that experience themselves,” Horton said.
Simone Talma Flowers, executive director of Interfaith Action of Central Texas, said Horton and Blumofe’s trip shows how friendship can bridge social and spiritual divides.
Interfaith will look for similar opportunities in the future, she said.
“Humans are capable of … beautiful things, but they’re also capable of horrendous things. And we have seen it with the Holocaust, and we have seen it with the trans-Atlantic slave trade,” Talma Flowers said. “The importance of this work … is that reminder: unless we connect with each other and realize the value of our shared humanity, we can go down that road again.”
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