Adam Kessler is the former Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) an organization which falls under the umbrella of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Prior to the formation of the Interfaith Center, the JCRC provided most of the region's interfaith programming and opportunities. A key member of the JCRC at that time was Abby Stamelman Hocky, eventual founder of the Interfaith Center. When the JCRC was re-structured, the Interfaith Center was created soon thereafter to carry on this important work. Adam has been a member of the Religious Leaders Council Administrative Group for over eight years.
What drew you to interfaith work?
I believe that it's important for the Jewish community to be concerned about outreach and how we connect to the general community. The Jewish community, being only 2% of this country's population, should be concerned about parochialism - minority communities need to seek out friends across racial, cultural, and faith lines. As American citizens we need to connect on all kinds of issues that are not typically "Jewish issues" and work in coalition is to solve our social ills.
Can you share a favorite story or moment from your time with the Interfaith Center?
The people who I've met at the RLC are exceptional people, and I appreciate being around people who are concerned about making the world a better place. It is actually kind of intoxicating when you look around, and there is not a single selfish person in the room. I've been able to further enhance these amazing relationships involving these individuals in the JCRC's Israel missions.
What is your ultimate dream for what the Interfaith Center could achieve in our region?
I think that it coincides with my own concerns about my work and answering the question: Who are we reaching? How do we reach people who are normally closed to our message? A successful Interfaith Center would be not getting the same people in the room but to really delve into the pews all Philadelphians. This is accomplished by a more systemic outreach where we engage people from all walks of life not just during times of strife or tragedy but on a regular basis. It's conceptually very simple but technically very difficult.
What is the purpose of interfaith work?
Achieving success in this area is being able to look down the road in, say, 10 years and look at all of the relationships we have formed. I think it is something we could literally measure. We could talk about the new programs we have created and the number of events we've done together. The relationships that develop will help form a more vibrant community, and to me, a truly vibrant community has people working together and forming relationships that wouldn't typically form on their own. Society is improved as a whole when diverse minds, skills, and backgrounds are brought together to cooperate and achieve great things.