The Pope’s Visit, Iran and Global Warming Are All in a Day’s Work for JCRC


Between the recent Iran nuclear deal and the upcoming visit of Pope Francis, the JCRC is as busy as ever.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) serves the needs of the Jewish community through building community relations, social action and advocacy. Among its guiding principles is the belief that sustained efforts to promote understanding and harmony among diverse groups strengthen the Jewish community and society at large.
A voice for the Jewish community in interfaith circles, JCRC promotes a strong connection to the people of Israel, commemorates the memory and lessons of the Holocaust and advocates on various domestic policy issues of concern to the Jewish community. Established in 1939 as an independent non-profit organization, JCRC merged into the Jewish Federation in 2003.
Between the recent Iran nuclear deal and the upcoming visit of Pope Francis, the JCRC is as busy as ever. Regarding the papal visit, JCRC has been working with the Catholic community of Greater Philadelphia to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the 1965 document that made possible a new relationship between Catholics and Jews after many centuries of enmity. Because Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia that same weekend, his personal friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka will also be visiting Philadelphia.
Rabbi Skorka will speak at a St. Joseph’s University event co-sponsored with JCRC, AJC, ADL and the Board of Rabbis on September 25th about Nostra Aetate; there will be a dedication of a new sculpture representing the new and greatly improved relationship between the two communities over the past 50 years entitled “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time.” 
JCRC chair Dan Segal hopes the activities of the Pope will draw more attention to this event, which celebrates a landmark document for interfaith relations. Segal said that Nostra Aetate was “a major civil rights achievement for the Jewish community at the time” and set important groundwork for much of the interfaith dialogue and relationship-building JCRC engages in today.
Because interfaith dialogue and Israel advocacy are at the heart of JCRC’s mission, the council also works with Protestant, Muslim and other faith and ethnic communities in Greater Philadelphia. 
Additionally, the Jewish Federation, through JCRC and its national parent organization, The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), has been focused on the growing lack of civility in conversations, especially around the topic of Israel. “As the country has become more polarized politically and fed by the 24/7 news cycle, the volume has become louder when people try to talk to each other about contentious issues and the result is that we are talking past one another not to each other,” said Adam Kessler, JCRC director.   As a result, JCPA is spearheading the “Constructive Conversations Project” — a new program for community leaders to learn how to hold civil and productive conversations about contentious topics.
In December, JCRC will be hosting an expert panel and workshops on climate change. The day will feature scientists, political and religious leaders discussing climate change’s Jewish element, science, security implications, politics and effect on the poor. The workshops will give community members ideas of tangible actions they can take regarding these issues.
Another notable upcoming event is the mission to Israel JCRC is leading this February for African-American clergy members from major churches in the Philadelphia area. “By taking clergy to Israel, we hope to show them first-hand just how complicated the situation is for people there and how easily they can misunderstand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when they try to learn about it through sound bites and headline news,” said Kessler. Participants will also benefit from programming before and after the trip. 
To learn more about these events and JCRC’s work, contact Adam Kessler at [email protected] or 215-832-0651. 


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