2016-11-23 / Columns

Be a part of JCRC’s effort to build bridges locally and beyond

JCRC Executive Director

As we enter into the holiday season, it always seems an appropriate time to acknowledge what a great country, state and community in which we live.

It has been just a few weeks since we all woke up (if one even went to sleep) on Wednesday, Nov. 9 to hear the news of who will be our 45th President of the United States. I believe I state the obvious that there was great excitement for some along with serious disappointment for others. As you may recall from my last column, we here at the JCRC, through our Government Affairs Committee, engage in education and advocacy efforts in a bi-partisan fashion. Even before the actual election, regardless of who the eventual president-elect would be, the Jewish community relations field was already anticipating some of the challenges that might confront us moving forward.

A few examples include the increase in white nationalist movements, expansion of anti-globalization sentiments both in the U.S. and in other countries and its impact on Israel, and any developments with regard to the new administration dealing with Iran’s regional and global hegemony ambitions.

One way that our advocacy efforts would be strengthened and leveraged to address these and other issues is by continuing to build meaningful relationships with other minority, ethnic and religious groups through our Interfaith and Intergroup Relations Committee. We work with organizations and leaders from these communities who share concerns about issues of importance not only to the Jewish community, but society in general. These may include additional issues to the ones mentioned earlier, such as affordable health care, services for seniors or those with disabilities, immigration reform and foreign aid. We know these relationships cannot be established only during times of uncertainty or crisis, which is why our staff and volunteers work to build and strengthen these connections at all times.

It is often expressed to me how surprised people are, including by many of the most engaged volunteers and generous donors throughout our Federation system, of all the different partnerships and organizations our JCRC is engaged with throughout South Jersey and beyond. For that reason I want to take a moment to highlight some of our recent activity with the hope that some of you reading this will be interested and curious enough to inquire how you can help us in our efforts.

Aside from our Catholic- Jewish Commission, a longstanding partnership between our Jewish Federation and the Camden Diocese, we continue to develop deep connections with other faith and ethnic communities. Some recent examples over just the past year include hosting two Imams at an open forum to answer questions about Islam and participating in a presidential election forum panel discussion hosted by the local African American sorority alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. Just last month, our agency had representation at the New Jersey Hispanic Leadership Summit at Rowan University, chaired by Camden City Councilman Angel Fuentes, who has been a regular attendee at our community’s Super Sunday. We also hosted a program featuring the highest-ranking Muslim officer from the New York Police Department for a conversation about building bridges among people of all backgrounds and beliefs.

In addition, I have recently been invited to serve on the Steering Committee of the New Jersey Interfaith Coalition, in addition to my current participation as a member of the Cherry Hill Religious Leaders Coalition, the Moorestown Ministerium, Cherry Hill Police Department Interfaith Advisory Council, and the Camden County Human Relations Commission.

As important as it is that our Jewish Community Relations Council has a seat at the table with all of these different councils and coalitions, at the end of the day some of the most important and ultimately influential relationships are often between people. We not only want to be aware of these relationships but actually want to help foster these relationships. One such model that has had great success and is expanding in our area, and which we are proud to support, are chapters of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. Each chapter is comprised of a relatively small group of Jewish and Muslim women who get together to socialize and learn about one another in an informal way.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming involved in JCRC’s Interfaith/Intergroup committee, Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, or just want to be notified about our outreach programming, please send me an email at dsnyder@jfedsnj.org, and I or a member of our committee will be in touch. 

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