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Jews and Latino Pentecostals celebrate Sukkot

October 9, 2009 |  7:15 am

English, Hebrew and Farsi are commonly heard at Sinai Temple, one of the Westside’s largest synagogues. But Thursday night, its immense sanctuary was buzzing with Spanish.

Dozens of Latino Pentecostal church groups joined the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy group, to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and bolster a budding relationship.

“We’re barely starting to know each other," Pentecostal pastor Tony Solorzano said as he held a small Israeli flag. “We are tearing down the walls of ignorance.”

Solorzano, who was born in El Salvador, said Pentecostals have a strong interest in peace in Israel.

“We believe in Jesus Christ and he came to the holy land of Israel, so we identify with that,” he said. “The Bible says pray for peace in Israel, so we take that seriously.”

A gathering of some 800 — many of them Pentecostals — donned yarmulkes, danced and socialized under the sukkah, a traditional temporary hut used during the holiday.

For Pentacostals like Reyna Monterroso, the evening was not the first time they experienced Jewish culture.

The 42-year-old Gardena resident said she has been cooking traditional Jewish dishes, such as challah bread and brisket, for years.

Como se llama, kugel?” she said, trying to recall the name for the casserole-like dish.

Seth Brysk, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, said the interaction between the two communities has included language and cultural classes for Pentecostal pastors. The sessions had done much to improve understanding between two groups that are not traditionally close.

“Although we have all these commonalities — Israel, an immigrant experience — there had not been a lot of direct contact,” Brysk said.

—Robert Faturechi