In 2019 we continued Courageous Conversations with the overarching theme asking the question, “How do we work towards creating a connected community of different people rather than a community that lets different people in?”
The number of participants and faith communities grew in 2019. A Kick-Off event was held at St John Baptist Church on March 11, 2019 and then 4 conversation circles were held on consecutive Tuesdays on March 19th, March 26th, April 2nd, and April 9th of 2019.
We gathered at 3 faith locations: St. John Baptist Church, Beth Shalom Congregation, and Dar Al-Taqwa Islamic Center. We had 181 circle participants and 40 trained facilitators gathered in 22 Discussion Circles. There were attendees from 52 different faith communities participating. The growth and enthusiasm of the participants was exciting!
In our last week of discussion circles we brainstormed ideas for keeping the connections going and shared them with each other. Participants created plans to implement some of the ideas and fliers and sign-up sheets were shared at the Wrap-Up event at St John Baptist Church on April 15th, 2019. They were also shared on our Facebook page and via email.
We were honored to have the Honorable Congressman Elijah Cummings as our Keynote speaker at our Wrap-Up event in 2019.
We also heard words from Congressman John Sarbanes, Maryland State Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, and County Executive Calvin Ball. In addition we heard from some conversation circle participants who shared how the conversations impacted them. It was a moving and inspiring evening and cemented our commitment to keep the conversations going!
For the second year, Essential Partners provided curriculum development along with training for the facilitators for the conversation circles. Essential Partners works to improve individuals' skills in facilitating challenging conversations. Find out more on their website: https://www.whatisessential.org.
We received the Solomon Schechter Award for Innovation and Impact, the highest award presented biannually by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. There were over 300 submissions. The award committee chose Courageous Conversations for their top award because they believed that this program offered the greatest opportunity to bring people together in meaningful dialogue to address the racial and faith bias undermining civil society today.
John Sarrouf of Essential Partners joined Beth Shalom Congregation President Tammy Lawrence and Rabbi Susan Grossman in presenting the program to USCJ Convention participants, after which USCJ leadership presented the award at a special Award reception.