In Berlin, my lifelong employer, Young & Rubicam, has begun building a place of worship designed to serve all of the world’s three monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. When it’s complete, The House of One will have three separate wings — one to serve as a synagogue, one as a church and a third as a mosque. At the hub of these three sacred spaces will be a commons where the faithful can mingle and get to know one another better.
The social benefits of this project are clear, but it’s also a philosophically sound idea. These three religions grow from the same taproot, the first books of the Bible. They all trace their lineage back to Abraham and the God he worshipped. In other words, those who belong to these three faiths ultimately worship the same God, but in divergent ways, while listening to a slightly different set of messengers: Moses, Jesus and Mohammad. At the deepest level, what they have in common is what Karen Armstrong would call a gospel of compassion: the Golden Rule. A place like the House of One can bring into relief the unity of this commandment central to all monotheism: to love others as you love yourself.
What’s perhaps most striking about Berlin as the site for this project is how the House of One is rising up in a place haunted by its memory of the Holocaust. It will be built on the Petriplatz, where Berlin was founded in the Middle Ages. In Germany, Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin, has devoted himself to fostering dialog among people of all three faiths. About the House of One, he has said:
When the Jews were expelled from Spain, they did not return to the country for 500 years. But in Berlin, when the Second World War ended in 1945, the Jews who had been in hiding and those who had fled immediately began rebuilding a new Jewish life in the city. For me, Berlin is all about remembrance and rebirth.
A public architectural competition was held to find the right design that would convey the special meaning of this project. The Berlin firm, Kuehn Malvezzi was the selected winner. Right now the project is ramping up its substantial fundraising effort. The target: 43.5 million Euros. The campaign, called “Three Religions. One Home,” is supported by a crowd-funding website, classic advertising donated by Y&R and through the usual assortment of social media.
That’s the strategy. The tactic? Bricks. They’re for sale, and you can buy as many as you want.
OK, they’re only symbolic. As far as I know, you won’t be able to identify your particular brick or bricks when you visit. Your ownership is purely imaginary, but what’s real is that each brick will cost ten Euros. So far, 300 donors have claimed their share of the foundation, but thousands more are needed. I plan to buy a few myself.
If you want to contribute, Y&R has created a special page on House of One’s website. Please visit, post, tweet, like, and support, even if it’s nothing more than sharing on Facebook or Twitter a photo of yourself and your friends at the future home of this wonderful house. At this point, it’s all about those clicks. First the clicks, then the bricks.