Board Meeting Minutes
September 9th, 2022
Interfaith Alliance of Upstate New York
The meeting began at 8:00 am at Jewish Federation Headquarters In attendance were Bev Magidson, Gloria Jimson, Moshe Bomzer, David Eligberg, Djafer Sebkouhi, Walter Ayers, Karl Bower, Paul Naamon, Kathleen Duff, Jim Kane, Khalid Bhatti, Mussarat Chaudhry, and Laura Weed, with Rob Kovach on zoom. Many thanks to Linda Arocho and the Federation for supplying breakfast and the technical zoom assistance.
Paul introduced Rev. Jimson, of the Payn AME Church in Chatham, who is new to the committee. There were introductions around the table. Rev. Jimson announced that her Church will be celebrating its 173rd anniversary of its existence on Oct 1st. She invited all to attend, 1-4 pm.
Fr. Jim Kane did an opening prayer.
Relationships among Local Interfaith Groups and between the local Interfaith Alliance and the National Office of Interfaith Alliance: Discussion
Monshin Paul Naamon began the discussion with a brief summary of a conversation that he had had with Maureen O’Leary who is the Field Organizer for the National Office of the Interfaith Alliance. Paul had raised concerns with her about the fact that our local group is a 5013c religious organization rather than a 503c political lobbying organization, which the national organization seems to be. In particular, Paul raised the issue that our group is committed to including all religious groups, and avoiding positions on some controversial political topics. O’Leary responded that she would raise this issue with the national office. She also plans to visit local branches of the organization.
The statement of the mission of the National Office of the Interfaith Alliance from their website is as follows:
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
We believe that religious freedom is a foundation for American democracy
We believe that matters of personal conscience must be held sacred, but no one has the right to impose their beliefs on others.
We believe that religious and political extremists are a threat to individual liberty and democracy.
We believe that religious and cultural diversity are essential in building vibrant communities.
HOW WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Interfaith Alliance is the only national interfaith organization dedicated to protecting the integrity of both religion and democracy in America.
National Policy: We promote legislation that protects the boundaries between religion and government, so that politics doesn’t infringe on your faith and matters of faith don’t infringe on your freedom.
Grassroots Activism: Our local affiliates mobilize individuals on the grass-roots level to make a difference in their own communities. We offer a forum to challenge bigotry and defend religious freedom on local issues, including candidate education, religion in the public sphere, and interfaith relations.
Election Monitoring: We track the use (and misuse) of religion by candidates for public office and help religious leaders and politicians navigate the boundary between politics and religion.
Education: We facilitate interfaith dialogue to enhance mutual understanding and respect for religious differences.
WHY IT MATTERS
As religion plays an increasingly prominent role in American politics, preserving the boundary between religion and government is more vital than ever. Interfaith Alliance works to ensure that faith and freedom flourish so that individuals can worship freely or not worship at all, so they can embrace matters of personal conscience without fear of government intrusion, and so that all can live in a vibrant, healthy society.
Interfaith Alliance was created in 1994 to celebrate religious freedom and to challenge the bigotry and hatred arising from religious and political extremism infiltrating American politics. Today, Interfaith Alliance has members across the country from 75 faith traditions as well as those of no faith tradition.
Khalid raised concerns that there was too much overlap between the memberships of the Sidney Albert Interfaith Board at Saint Rose, and the Interfaith Alliance at this point, and he was worried that the two organizations were merging. He pointed out that the goals and missions of the two organizations should be kept separate because there is important work for both organizations to do, and it is different work, in each case.
Laura and Paul argued that there is no merger planned or intended among any of the three organizations.
Paul stated the Sidney and Beatrice Albert Board performs a mainly academic and educational mission, while the Upstate NY branch of the Interfaith alliance promotes more activism, for example, in marshalling a public response to Islamaphobia or Anti-Semitism. He used our planned up-coming Swastika/ Hakenkreuz discussion as an example of an educational program. However we could also organize a protest against a far-right group’s use of the icon as an expression of hate, which would be more under the umbrella of the Interfaith Alliance. The Stop the Hate program is sponsored by both groups, and co-sponsorship is always an option.
Laura has looked for but not found a mission statement for the Albert Lectureship group. The Albert group is in the process of instituting by-laws, and we should probably add crafting a mission statement to that agenda. Laura observed, that although she is new to the Interfaith Alliance, her sense is that it’s mission is to provide an interfaith voice in opposition to the aggressive forms of religious nationalism and interfaith hatred that are growing in our country and the world. See the mission statement above.
David pointed out that there is an advantage in having nation-wide synergism among people who may be doing the same or similar work in various parts of the country. Groups can learn from each other without dictating what each other should do. The National organization can be a bridge-builder, while we pick and choose our own topics. David asked “How does the National Committee contribute to our intentionality and planning?”
Moshe pointed out that our local chapter of the Interfaith Alliance is financially independent of the National Office.
Emphasizing the need for a politically active local interfaith organization, Khalid pointed out that there is currently a genocide taking place in India, under the hate-mongering of Prime Minister Narendra Modi towards Muslims. He thinks the Interfaith community has to speak out and act more clearly against this genocide, which is getting very little attention around the world. Also, there is currently massive flooding in Pakistan, where 1/3 of the County is underwater, and there has not been enough Interfaith response.
Paul agreed to put a statement on the website, and Laura will work to add Dr. Ubaid to the Stop the Hate program. Perhaps we could put together a fund-raising program for the floods in Pakistan.
Spring Dinner and Fund Raiser
The annual awards and fundraising Robert LaMar dinner has been moved to the Spring to avoid conflict with the similar event staged by the Council of Churches in the Fall. Karl, Gloria and Walter will form a subcommittee to work on putting together the dinner. In the past, this work has been done solo by Deb Riitano, and the database for the contact persons for both invitees and Albany Country Club exist only in Deb’s head. So, the subcommittee will meet with Deb to try to retrieve as much of that info as possible.
The group needs to nominate and select recipients for the awards. We are aiming to hold the event the first week of May, and aiming for 200 attendees, which means inviting at least 300 people.
Laura encouraged everyone to attend the Stop the Hate Program, and distributed info on it.
Paul announced that we have raised money for Ukraine with the sale of yard flags, and that will be sent to Ukraine soon. Gloria pointed out that she has been working with HODOS, a Ukrainian relief program.
Paul and Rob are working to distribute the money raised for food in downtown Albany to the organizations that are feeding people there.
Our Next meeting will be Mon Nov. 7th at Jewish Federation at 8am.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 am.
Minutes submitted by Laura Weed