I was in our nation’s capital recently for a series of events surrounding National Hunger Awareness Day. The purpose of the observance is to raise consciousness about the 35 million Americans, including over 12 million kids, who face hunger in this country every day.
But the day is about more than just raising awareness. It’s also geared toward galvanizing action – getting people motivated in their local communities to volunteer, to donate and to commit themselves to advocating on behalf of a politically powerless constituency.
There were a number of events taking place in DC, all of them incredibly inspiring. I attended two of them, and couldn’t have been more moved by the resolve of the attendees to make a real difference on this issue.
The first event was a Jewish community gathering held at Temple Micah. For a Monday after work, the turnout was impressive: nearly 70 people, including rabbis, cantors and families from across the District. We at MAZON led the planning, and we partnered with a number of prominent Jewish and other agencies: the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC), USCJ (the Conservative Movement), the Rabbinical Assembly, the Reconstructionist Federation, Hillel, JCPA, American Jewish World Service and the Alliance to End Hunger.
The event itself was really wonderful. Jodi Jacobson of AJWS led off the speakers with a look at global poverty and hunger. She was followed by Rabbi Steve Gutow of JCPA, who focused more on the domestic picture of things. And then I spoke about hunger in broader terms, educating the audience about what it is, why it happens and steps we can take to prevent it.
When the event ended, we all walked together to the National Cathedral on Wisconsin Ave. for an incredibly moving and motivating Interfaith Convocation on hunger. This is the second time out for this event, and, once again, it was a tremendous success.
Geared toward uniting diverse faith communities in common cause, the gathering brought together literally thousands of people from different faith traditions: Jews and Catholics, Muslims and Lutherans, Baptists and Episcopalians…the list goes on. It was completely electrifying to be part of a service that showed us what we could accomplish by working in tandem, and that allowed us to envision a groundbreaking collaboration despite our many different theological, social and political points of view.
My trip to DC was an absolutely thrilling one, because it reaffirmed for me that people of faith (be it religious faith or faith in an ideal) have the power to do good – and to do it together.
– Dr. H. Eric Schockman