At the second annual Prayer Breakfast for the Second Chance Foundation, Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, founding rabbi of Kol Tzedek in West Philadelphia, was chosen to give the closing benediction to the 430 politicians, religious leaders, heads of nonprofits and activists seated in the second-floor ballroom of the First District Plaza in University City.
The breakfast is one of the major fundraising events for the foundation, which was founded by Philadelphia district attorney R. Seth Williams in 2011 as a way to help give those who need it the same kinds of opportunities he was given as a child.
“As the D.A., I come into contact every day with organizations trying to provide second chances to kids,” Williams said. “They ask me for money, and I don’t have the ability to give it to them. But I know there are a lot of huge foundations like Pew, Kellogg and Ford — sometimes they just don’t know who to give the money to. The Second Chance Foundation serves as a mediator, helping identify large donors and worthy, small organizations that are in dire need of funding, and then connecting the two.”
Williams, who is an outspoken advocate for gun control and making the city safer for all, came up with the idea for a prayer breakfast, he said, “as a way to spread the word about what the foundation does, and to take time to pray, in all of our various religions, for peace.”
For Grabelle Herrmann, sharing the stage with so many religious leaders of different denominations was nothing new; as one of the religious leaders of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild), a nonprofit advocacy group, she participates in ecumenical events regularly.
She had never been to a prayer breakfast before, she said, and found the experience to be a good exercise in community building. “It was nice to interact with and get to know all of the different clergy,” she said. “There's no formal interfaith clergy organization that I am aware of that can bring us together.”
While she appreciated the opportunity to meet so many people committed to helping create second chances in life for those who deserve them, Grabelle Herrmann was also gratified to be given the chance to be on the dais and to bless the assembly. “It's good to see Judaism in the public sphere and included as part of the conversation,” she said.