Multi-faith coalition share vision of Greater Cleveland: jobs, education, safety, respect and no hunger
by Michael O'Malley for Cleveland.com
posted June 7,2011
update January 12, 2019
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A newly organized multi-faith coalition of 40 different religious congregations and community groups unveiled a coming-out Monday -- in the words of Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk -- to "rise against the tide of a despairing Cleveland."
The seeds of the new coalition, called Greater Cleveland Congregations, were sown in September at an organizational meeting attended by 350 people at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood where Nosanchuk is senior rabbi.
By Monday, it appeared the seeds flowered into a mass movement as more than 2,000 people filled a giant theater in the Masonic Auditorium near downtown.
"Tonight, we come together as people of faith to share our vision of a Greater Cleveland," the Rev. Tracey Lind of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland told the crowd.
"Imagine a place where people are healthy, children are well educated, workers are employed in good jobs, nobody goes hungry, everybody feels safe and all are treated with dignity and respect," she echoed to a thunderous applause.
The aim of the group is to use its spiritual muscle to organize the community around issues of social justice and economic disparities. The work will include grassroots organizing, holding public officials accountable and partnering with private and public sectors to address civic needs.
For the last nine months the coalition has been meeting in large and small groups and organizing committees to gauge the most pressing problems in the community, though so far it has not offered specifics on how it will tackle those problems.
The group will initially focus on strategies to address five areas of concern: education, jobs, health care, criminal justice and sustainable food.
"We will promote understanding of the region's assets and challenges and build broad support for strategies and public policies that will bring about a new vision for the place we call home," Lind said. "We ask our public officials and private sector leaders to join us in this pledge of mutual cooperation and accountability."
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson addressed the crowd, saying he was impressed by the coming together of so many diverse people - suburbanites, urbanites, Christians, Muslims and Jews -- and their willingness to roll up their sleeves.
"They're actually taking ownership of challenges and ownership of solutions," Jackson said in a interview. "They're not just talking. They're going to get people involved."
One religious group that appears not to be very involved is the Catholics, as only a few attended the event.
An email circulated last week by parishioners at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Shaker Heights read, "the diocese has asked us to put our involvement with the GCC on hold. In our communication with the diocese, it remains unclear as to what the future may hold. For now, we will not be attending the founding assembly."
Diocese spokesman Robert Tayek could not be reached for comment, so it wasn't clear whether the diocese told all parishes to put their involvement with the new group "on hold."
Lind, a principle organizer of the coalition, said she was not familiar with the email. She said she and the other organizers sent Bishop Richard Lennon of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese a letter two weeks ago inviting him to join the coalition, but got no response.