2008-06-18 / Local News

JEWISH COMMUNITY RELATIONS COUNCIL

Interfaith understanding essential, according to JCRC keynoter
By HARRIET KESSLER Voice staff

1. Honored at the JCRC Annual Meeting held on the Weinberg Jewish Community Campus were (from left), Jeff Brody, Dr. William Kushner, Dr. Jerry Ehrlich, Deena Iskowitz and Robert Lazar. Brody, Iskowitz and Lazar received JCRC service awards. Kushner was honored with the Volunteer of the Year Award and Ehrlich with the "Upstander" Award for his work in Darfur refugee camps and his work educating Americans about the continuing genocide in Darfur. 1. Honored at the JCRC Annual Meeting held on the Weinberg Jewish Community Campus were (from left), Jeff Brody, Dr. William Kushner, Dr. Jerry Ehrlich, Deena Iskowitz and Robert Lazar. Brody, Iskowitz and Lazar received JCRC service awards. Kushner was honored with the Volunteer of the Year Award and Ehrlich with the "Upstander" Award for his work in Darfur refugee camps and his work educating Americans about the continuing genocide in Darfur. Just back from the United Methodist Church Convention in Fort Worth Texas, JCPA Associate Director Ethan Felson praised the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern NJ for its pioneer work in interfaith dialogue.

Felson keynoted the JCRC May 27 Annual Meeting, speaking to a group about 150 JCRC members, plus Evangelical Christians who work closely with the JCRC and Catholics and Muslims involved in South Jersey's Catholic-Jewish Commission and its Catholic-Jewish-Muslim dialogue.

"This is a great JCRC," Felson said. "One that I and my colleagues look to for direction."

He went on to relate that his experience in Fort Worth convinced him that interfaith relationships on the local level, such as the dialogues and institutes that South Jersey's JCRC encourages, are essential. "The stakes are high," he said. "Not only in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, but in a whole panoply of issues."

2. Annual Meeting co-chairs Dr. Dennis and Susan Lorell congratulate installed officers Howard Heyman, president, and Ann-Linn Glaser, Dr. Myra Gutin and David Shevrin, vice-presidents. Vicki Zell is JCRC presidentelect.  2. Annual Meeting co-chairs Dr. Dennis and Susan Lorell congratulate installed officers Howard Heyman, president, and Ann-Linn Glaser, Dr. Myra Gutin and David Shevrin, vice-presidents. Vicki Zell is JCRC presidentelect. Felson called the recent Methodist Convention an "Alice in Wonderland Experience," explaining that while both liberal and conservative Christian groups attended, Jews could not talk to any of them. "We were in another faith community's space … not there in a supportive capacity. We talked into our wrists."

One problem that Felson sees is the need to distinguish between groups like the Women's Division of the United Methodist Church, with its budget of $30 million, that calls all Zionist leaders "terrorists" and equates the birth of Israel with "original sin," and other groups who consider themselves friends of the Palestinians and bear "authentic witness to the plight of Palestinians … from genuine concern."

3. Ethan Felson, Associate Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the national agency of the JCRC, was the guest speaker. Gathered following his talk are (from left), Dr. Michael Partnow, co-president; Gloria Mazziotti, past co-president, and Pat Sandrow, copresident of the Catholic-Jewish Commission; Felson; William Sutter, Executive Director, and James Showers, vice-president, of the Friends of Israel. 3. Ethan Felson, Associate Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the national agency of the JCRC, was the guest speaker. Gathered following his talk are (from left), Dr. Michael Partnow, co-president; Gloria Mazziotti, past co-president, and Pat Sandrow, copresident of the Catholic-Jewish Commission; Felson; William Sutter, Executive Director, and James Showers, vice-president, of the Friends of Israel. There are voices critical of Israel that don't distort and that must not be silenced, "or we leave all the space to the extremists," according to Felson. Pacifists, for example, come from a different theological base. "With their talk of turning the other cheek and the evils of warfare, they are not coming from the same dark place" as a Donald Wagner- the notorious North Paul University professor who "describes Palestine as a beautiful garden and Israel as a killer vine." These voices must be heard.

Jews and other faiths are "at the beginning of an important conversation," Felson said. "We're learning that when relationships happen in the daylight, demonization becomes impossible." .

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