The two began a religious dialogue and expanded it to the larger community with a program called Root and Branch, where people could discuss their faith in a safe space.
"It wasn't competition, and it wasn't, 'Let's see which religion is the best,'" Urecki said. "It was, 'What does each religion have to offer to the world?'"
Thirty years ago, Urecki said he would have never seen a non-Jew at a Torah class. It would have been a question of, "Why is this person here?"
"Now, it's 'Why not?'" Urecki said. "They're trying to enrich their heritage."
As Jewish communities nationwide have seen their numbers dwindle, Urecki said Charleston's has started to stagnate. The makeup of B'nai Jacob congregates is no longer the "classic Jewish family" -- both parents Jewish, both grandparents Jewish -- but is more eclectic.
"Our synagogue has become, I think, a place where anyone knows that they can come to our congregation, be a part of our studies, be a part of our prayer services and hopefully get something out of it," Urecki said.
Urecki also has been vocal about Israel and Palestine and led community discussions about those issues. A self-described Zionist, Urecki said he is "passionate about Israel" and believes Jewish people have a right to their "ancestral home."
But, Urecki said, both Israelis and Palestinians have compelling narratives. The spiritual discussions he encounters have changed the way he approaches conversations about the two, he said.
"The conversations are not 'Israel is right, the Palestinians are wrong,'" Urecki said. "It's having discussions, learning about the issues in an intelligent fashion [and] communicating that with others. Conveying in a respectful manner that there are two narratives. And if I can contribute to that in a positive way, then that's good."
Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.mole...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.