Faith leaders mark decade of dialogue

Local Jews and Christians have marked 10 years of getting together.

The board of the American Jewish Committee Cincinnati and local members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently met to celebrate 10 years of interfaith fellowship and ongoing dialogue. 

Beginning in 2012, part of the board of directors of AJC Cincinnati and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began meeting to learn about each other’s communities and faiths and to explore similarities and differences.

“The years of ongoing dialogue and friendship between leaders of these communities is inspiring and should be a model for interfaith efforts elsewhere,” said Justin Kirschner, AJC Cincinnati regional director.

Participants in the faith meetings at a recent gathering.

The faith leaders have met about four times per year at alternating locations. More recently, one meeting each year has been devoted to community service to support people in need and organizations that serve them.

Some topics explored through the years include respective liturgies and holidays, social issues, how each group addresses the needs of its youth, antisemitism and the shorter history of persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Some meetings included tours of synagogues and one featured a tour of Cincinnati’s Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center. One series focused on each part leading a deep-dive study of scripture.  Gatherings continued through much of COVID as Zoom gatherings.

“One important similarity I observed is our mutual belief in the importance of what we call in Judaism “Tikkun Olam” or repairing the world,” said Sandy Kaltman, a member of the board of directors for AJC Cincinnati.

She said the LDS church’s “impressively organized relief work and charitable and humanitarian aid efforts, and its JustServe website, are all beautiful examples of ‘Tikkun Olam,’ and I applaud you for that.”

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a “stake president” is the lay authority presiding over generally seven to a dozen geographically contiguous congregations. In the past 10 years, each of the individuals that have served as a stake president locally has participated in these ongoing interfaith discussions.

“This series has been a wonderful reaching-across to learn and appreciate others,” said Mark Motley, an LDS leader who helped start the meetings. “Most important for me, from it, I now have many deep friendships that would not have otherwise developed. It has truly been a delight to have been involved.”

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