Americans at the Pulpit and in the Public Square

A conversation on race, religion, and rhetoric in a diverse America.


AJC Co-Sponsors Black-Jewish Conference on Eve of Obama Inauguration
January 17, 2009 – New York – American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the New York Archdiocese Office of Black Ministry hosted a groundbreaking conference on Black-Jewish relations on the eve of the historic inauguration of America's first African American president.
Americans at the Pulpit and in the Public Square: A Conversation on Race, Religion and Rhetoric in a Diverse America opened on Saturday 17th at Xavier University in New Orleans, and continued through Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday.

"Our conference is an important milestone in AJC's century-long commitment to religious pluralism and interethnic cooperation," said Ann Schaffer , director of AJC's Belfer Center for American Pluralism. "This is an exciting opportunity for a new generation of leaders to build on that foundation."

Against a background of a strongly divided America, the conference considered two key questions - where we are coming from as distinct faith and ethnic communities, and how we can move forward together. The conference aimed to educate and train participants to enable them to become change agents through lectures and hands-on workshops.

"What we do, in coming together as members of the Jewish community and members of the Black and Catholic communities, is an 'exercise' in 'Living the Dream,'" said Tyrone Davis , executive director of the Office of Black Ministry of the New York Archdiocese. "We are pleased and honored to be joining with our Jewish brothers and sisters in this landmark step in Black-Jewish, Jewish-Christian dialogue at such a momentous time for our nation and especially for the Black community."

For more information on the conference, including program and speakers, visit

Saturday-Monday, Jan 17-19, 2009
Xavier University, New Orleans

The American Jewish Committee and The New York Archdiocese's Office of the Black Ministry hosted a conference for leaders and activists from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Held on the eve of an historic presidential inauguration and during Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, this conference presented a unique opportunity for Americans to join together in an authentic dialogue about our collective future. This conference aimed to educate and train participants to become change agents.

Against a background of a strongly divided America, the conference considered two key questions: 1) where are we as distinct faith and ethnic communities coming from, and 2) how can we move forward together.

At the conference, we considered the major narratives of some key groups within our country, including the black Catholic and Jewish communities. We constructed them and deconstructed them, considered both an insider perspective and a critical outside one. We considered national narratives too – looking at this country’s history of racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism, as well as its proud tradition of giving opportunity to so many, regardless of origin.

We also looked toward the future. Focusing on the issues of education and political empowerment, we considered the most successful models in these areas and how they might bring together diverse communities, strengthen them and recreate a sense of a greater common good.

The conference consisted of lectures interspersed with hands-on workshops and trainings. It gave participants the opportunity to interact with each other meaningfully, breaking unspoken divides and strengthening not only our knowledge of each other, but our practice of being and working together.

Finally, the conference offered a taste of New Orleans, including participation in a grassroots community service project. New Orleans is a city that represents some of the most urgent need in America, its most polarized ethnic and religious divides, as well as its immense energy and potential.

Some of the questions the conference addressed are:

When do our religious and political beliefs unite and divide us?

Does the history of cooperation between African Americans and Jews during the Civil Rights movement bind these communities today?

How can we build meaningful relations between Catholics, Jews and African Americans as a model for our country?