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Sharing Sacred Space

A Special Message from Cantor Michelle Drucker Friedman and David Rakofsky, President


In Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18), we read that Abraham is poised at the entrance of his tent in the hottest part of the day, after his self-inflicted circumcision. Why would he not be resting inside after such a trial? We are told that even given the circumstances, Abraham sits waiting to invite a passerby to enjoy a place of respite.

Rabbinic commentators posit that his tent is open on all sides-as a way to ensure that anyone needing rest or comfort could enter no matter what direction they were coming from. Based on this verse, the Sages of the Talmud (Shabbat 127a) determine that “Greater is hachnasat orchim (the bringing in of guests) than receiving the Divine Presence.”

Not only is showing hospitality a mitzvah, in Judaism it becomes a legal obligation when one knows of strangers who need a place to dwell.

It is in that tradition that I am so grateful for the opportunity to share space with Rev. James and Unity Chicago; They need a place to worship, and we have the opportunity to invite them in.

It makes it all the more lovely that they have proven themselves to be kind and thoughtful partners. As there is much to be grateful for in this venture, it is noteworthy that, in many ways, our missions align. Just as we do, “Unity teaches that God’s love and power are present everywhere, dwelling within us and all around us. They believe that humans co-create with God through the power of their thoughts and words.”

Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Unity so that they are guests no more, but instead friends and partners in the sharing of this building and in our larger community.

Cantor Michelle Drucker Friedman


Fellow Emanuelites,

Let me open this announcement by reiterating what the Cantor said so beautifully: we are genuinely excited to welcome Unity Chicago into our generous building at 5959 Sheridan Road. Reverend James Parker, Service Coordinator Christine Randle, and their entire staff and Board of Trustees have already proven thoughtful and equally enthusiastic partners, to a person! And so, we now formally embark on our next journey as a community, and we do so without reservation.

How does this arrangement impact Emanuel financially?

As I had mentioned in my Yom Kippur Address, sharing unused portions of (and/or times at) our massive building will be just one part of an overall solution to our longstanding annual financial shortfall. In the spirit of presenting the utmost transparency to you, please know that this collaboration with Unity Chicago brings with it a certain degree of much-needed financial cushion. Having said that, their residency within our walls by no means brings us to the prospect of a break-even or better budget, all on its own. We are very grateful, however, that Unity Chicago is compensating us appropriately for this cohabitation with Emanuel.

That they have proven such delightful people on the road to getting us on the same page should be of great solace to all who may worry about the potential sacrifices that come with giving up 24/7 exclusive access to our beautiful property.

Before going any further, I want to send out a special thanks to long-time Emanuelite Glen Spear for his tireless work on the space sharing agreement over these past many months. Glen’s extensive behind-the-scenes involvement with Emanuel and its space sharing arrangements has been incredibly valuable to our survival over the years. His dedication to the present task, through close coordination with our Executive Director Sarabeth and Unity’s leadership, has made a great difference to our position, once again.

Some of you may be wondering, "When will I get to meet Unity Chicago's clergy, staff and congregants"? While we are working on events and opportunities for our congregants and Unity Chicago's members to become familiar, there are many ways you may meet them more informally as you simply come in and out of the building.

Reverend James and the Unity Chicago staff will have their business offices at Emanuel, so it will not be uncommon to see them upstairs and downstairs alongside our own staff, working hard for our communities.

You can also welcome members of the Unity Chicago community more organically throughout the week. Monday through Thursday evenings will find them hosting meetings, classes, youth work and/or choir practices in the building. On Sunday mornings, you will also see Unity Chicago while present for their 11 AM worship in the Sanctuary and Lederer Hall. We are working closely together in creating a detailed timeline for Sundays that ensures everyone has a positive experience on such a busy day for both our communities. Our joint goal is for everyone to feel equally welcome and to know that they have a place at Emanuel.

Feel free to learn more about Unity Chicago online by visiting here and keep your ears and eyes open as we plan time for all of us to get together!

David Rakofsky, President


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