The Collegeville Institute is launching an Interreligious Fellows Program in the fall of 2017. If ever there was a time for advancing unified action among diverse religious communities to deal with critical social issues in our nation, that time is now. The purpose of the Interreligious Fellows Program is to bring together emerging leaders within five prominent religious traditions in Minnesota—Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims—to examine together and address pervasive social challenges facing our world today in fields such as health care, business, education, poverty, immigration, and criminal justice. The fellows selected to participate in this program will join in conversation with noted leaders in each of these fields of civic life in Minnesota enabling them to form relationships that will equip them to develop concrete responses to such social issues.
Given its mission and history, the Collegeville Institute is uniquely positioned to be a leading force in engaging interreligious activities that address social challenges facing Minnesota and the nation. We know this approach works since we have completed one cohort of Twin Cities based Christian leaders in a similar program and are nearly completing a second cohort.
The program’s impact is measured in the human service and environmental efforts that participants launched. One led an effort to build and open the “Brooklyn Avenues” shelter for homeless youth in Brooklyn Park by forming a coalition of faith leaders, elected officials, businesses, government agencies, and funders. Another created an “EcoFaith Network” that encouraged and equipped 25 congregations to review their environmental practices and commit to eco-responsible work. Another, using church and community volunteers, launched an ex-offender re-entry program—a proven method to reduce Minnesota’s high recidivism rate. And yet another garnered the support of other parishes, schools, and school administrators to open an after-school tutoring program that improved school attendance, grades, and test results with populations of color, thus reducing the achievement gap in one school district.
The Collegeville Institute has assembled and empowered high-profile leaders from the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim communities to serve as an advisory board. That board, which assembled for their initial meeting on January 25, 2017 is making key decisions concerning themes to be addressed, the process of identifying and selecting fellows, and procedures involved in program planning and implementation.
The advisory board has selected Rabbi Barry Cytron as their director. Rabbi Cytron is ideally suited for this role, having served as, among other positions, senior rabbi of Adath Jeshurun Synagogue for many years and as director of the Jay Phillips Center for Multi-Faith Learning. He has also taught Jewish Studies at the College of St. Benedict, St. John’s University, the University of St. Thomas, and most recently Macalester College.