After Harvey Criticism, Joel Osteen Opens Megachurch to Jews for High Holy Days

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Televangelists Joel and Victoria Osteen, leaders of Houston’s Lakewood Mega-Church, offered their building – which used to be the stadium of the Houston Rockets – to a displaced Jewish synagogue. The offer comes just a few weeks after the Osteen’s were criticized for not immediately opening their downtown megachurch as a Hurricane Harvey shelter.

CORRECTS TO JOEL OSTEEN-Pastor Joel Osteen gives an interview at his Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. Osteen and his congregation have set up their church as a shelter for evacuees from the flooding by Tropical Storm Harvey. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

“Congregation Beth Yeshurun experienced devastating flooding,” an announcement on the church’s website says beneath a picture of the smiling Osteens. “This came at an especially bad time for Beth Yeshurun as the Jewish High Holy Days, (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).. Beth Yeshurun’s leadership reached out to us and Pastors Joel & Victoria offered to help.”

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“This is the first time in our congregation’s history, since we moved to this site in 1962, that we took on water,” said David Rosen, senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Meyerland. “It wasn’t just a room or a series of rooms. Every square inch of the temple flooded.”

“This is for thousands of Jewish people in Houston, their home,” said Rabbi Rosen “It’s their spiritual home, their second home.”

The flood left more than 2,000 families without a home to worship for the high holidays – the most important time of year on the Jewish calendar.

“It’s very hard to be out of our temple,” Rosen said. “There’s a lot of emotion that is captured in this sanctuary. We’ve had people who for 50 years have been sitting in the same seats.”

“I cannot thank Joel Osteen enough for his sensitivity and his encouragement,” said Rosen, adding that Osteen stepped in to offer the entire place and his staff for the occasion. “It’s a reaffirmation of the beautiful spirit of collegiality and interfaith conversation we have here in Houston.”

Rabbi Rosen is also dealing with repairs on his Bellaire home that took on more than a foot of water during Harvey

“It’s been the greatest challenge of my career and probably my life,” he said. “If anything has come out of this, it’s the extraordinary resilience of our community and congregation.”

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KHOU-TV contributed to this story

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