- Topics & Settings
The role of the community organizer in JRLC demonstrates the group’s bottom-up, grassroots approach to building momentum throughout the state, creating what Katherine Knutson calls a “participant civic culture.”1 This is primarily achieved through a process of identifying local congregations and connecting them to other faith communities in their area with similar social justice interests, such as childcare. They are then encouraged to organize events together, including lobbying at the State Capitol, to achieve these goals. These partnerships act as a microcosm of the larger JRLC for interfaith work, serving to both promote the benefits of interfaith cooperation and activate a network of support across the state for the organization.
Katherine Knutson, Interfaith Advocacy (Routledge, 2013).↩
In this respect, the JRLC functions in a similar way to other interfaith organizations with less formally established governance structures, as the existence of the relationships it helps form are generally centered around an issue of focus, infusing it with a more temporary nature than that of the larger JRLC, which separates its existence from any one political goal. Aside from promoting interfaith relationships, this work also allows the JRLC to gauge the existing momentum for a particular legislative agenda and to educate the public. While the official decision-making process rests firmly in the hands of the four sponsoring organizations, the process of asking members for input allows them to influence the issues that are discussed each legislative session, as well as to become educated on existing priorities that may lack widespread awareness of their significance.
This interfaith community work culminates to JRLC’s annual Day on the Hill event, which brings together around 13,000 advocates from JRLC’s statewide support network, to lobby at the State Capitol in favor of the organization’s current legislative priorities. Rabbi Tamar Grimm, board member representing the Jewish Community Relations Council, cites this event as one of the key successes of the JRLC in coordinating the energy of congregants of multiple faiths across Minnesota towards a common goal. This kind of interfaith event shows the progress made in the realm of religious pluralism since the days of the first World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893.