This summer, the Baltimore Jewish Council will be bringing its expertise on social justice and civil rights to the national stage.
This agency of The Associated will join the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of St. Louis in hosting “In the Footsteps of Heschel” - a national conference in St. Louis, centered on social justice and civil rights.
Federation JCRCs, synagogue leadership and Jewish media, among other Jewish communal professionals, will come together to learn the best tools and practices for coalition building and community engagement in civil rights work.
For years, BJC has been a leader in this arena, hosting interethnic and interfaith dialogues and housing the well-respected Elijah Cummings Youth Program, which brings together African American and Jewish teens in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District. In addition, recently the organization joined forces with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, helping train workforces about Judaism by providing Jewish curriculum to their cultural diversity courses.
“Prior to this year, the Commission was only talking about Muslim and Christian traditions. We offered to provide this curriculum and bring in a Jewish speaker,” says Maddie Suggs, director of public affairs for BJC.
And, this year, the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) broadened its interfaith programming, reaching out to a younger generation. Through a series of interfaith trialogues, Jewish, Christian and Muslim millennials are gaining greater understanding about one another as they learn about different faiths.
From a dialogue series, each led by clergy from the three faiths, to interfaith community volunteering, these young adults are getting to know one another, while challenging stereotypes.
“When I talk to participants they are telling me they are going out and having coffee with people they never would have connected with before. They are talking about various viewpoints … listening. It’s beginning to build trust,” say Suggs.
The trialogue sessions, first introduced last spring, takes place in different houses of worship. Topics discussed include a post-election discussion on the intersection of politics and religion, an annunciation celebration and community dialogue on gentrification at the Church on the Square and “Stories from the Fringe, presented by the JCC’s Rabbi Jessy Gross. BJC is partnering with the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore, the Church on the Square and Rabbi Gross on this project.
At the same time, Muslim and Jewish young adults are working through Repair the World, a program of Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC), getting together on nationwide days of service to give back to the community. Recently, on Mitzvah Day, they assembled winter care packages and made fleece blankets for Baltimoreans in need.
To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, JR, BJC is partnering with Repair the World and the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore (MCCCB) for a discussion on the legacy of interfaith partnership in the civil rights movement. Participants are asked to bring donations to the MCCCB food pantry.
According to Suggs, young adult participation in interfaith programming has skyrocketed over the past year, with approximately 70 attending at least one event.
“If we want to combat anti-Semitism, we must get to really know diverse groups of people,” Suggs says.