When a rabbi and an imam in Omaha, Nebraska, began to talk about their shared values, they asked how they could work more closely together to express those values in the community.

They soon included Christian leaders in their conversations.

The result is the Tri-Faith Initiative, a project that unites Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Three congregations — a church, a mosque and a synagogue — now stand on the same 15-hectare campus in Omaha.

“People are looking for community of meaning in a new way,” says the Tri-Faith Initiative’s interim director, Wendy Goldberg. The Tri-Faith model, she says, is “a way to lift up each of the congregations in their own right as important communities of faith” for collective impact.

Realizing the dream

Photo of man speaking to women and man inside mosque alongside photo of curving outdoor footbridge (© Tri-Faith Initiative)
Left: Inside the American Muslim Institute, Imam Jamal Daoudi speaks to visitors. Right: Abraham’s Bridge links the Tri-Faith Center houses of worship. Coincidentally, the bridge spans a stream called Hell Creek. (© Tri-Faith Initiative)

After incorporating as a nonprofit entity in 2006, the group bought land to accommodate several houses of worship. Then came 13 years of work to make it happen.

Temple Israel was dedicated in 2013, the American Muslim Institute in 2017 and Countryside Community Church in 2019. A shared interfaith center is under construction.

Fostering empathy

Photo of mosque alongside photo of people sitting and standing in room (© Tri-Faith Initiative)
Left: Visitors approach the American Muslim Institute. Right: Imam Jamal Daoudi, standing, left, and Rabbi Aryeh Azriel, seated, center, are among those attending an art exhibition, “Abraham: Out of One, Many,” hosted by the congregation of Temple Israel. (© Tri-Faith Initiative)

Celebrations of diversity move beyond doctrine. Shared art, music, food and holidays create mutual understanding, Goldberg says.

The initiative’s programs are organized in four categories: gather, learn, serve and act. Outreach includes protecting religious freedom and alleviating poverty.

Worshiping in proximity and working together daily bring down the barriers of misunderstanding and foster empathy for others of different backgrounds.

“This is an opportunity for us to stand up in a really positive way to help people understand that religious diversity is an asset to be celebrated,” Goldberg says.