Overcoming Disenfranchisement of Young People

With more than 40 years of experience in rabbinical leadership, Rabbi Steven Jacobs strives to help communities and groups surmount obstacles posed by political issues and prejudice through his organization the Progressive Faith Foundation. In addition to his work with the Progressive Faith Foundation, Rabbi Steven Jacobs serves on the boards of directors of such organizations as Faith in Public Life, Equality California, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

More than 50 percent of the people on the planet live in cities and approximately half of these city dwellers are under 25 years old. With unemployment a factor in many of these urban areas, some people view young adults as a drain on society rather than a promising influence; their reliance in many cases on government assistance often makes them a target for prejudice and disenfranchisement. Experts believe, however, that concentrated focus on developing programs aimed at meeting the specific needs of young adults could shift the cycle of disenfranchisement and create new job opportunities while improving quality of life for all residents.

In an increasing number of cities, local groups offer young people the chance to participate in programs that enhance the quality of life in their neighborhoods. These projects include such endeavors as urban design, park refurbishment, and renovations of sports facilities. In many cases, the young people gain valuable connections by meeting business owners, professionals, skilled workers, and college students who inspire them to realize their own potential to make a positive contribution to society.

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Rabbi Steven Jacobs: Peace Possible for People of Different Faiths

A long-time rabbi and the founder of the Progressive Faith Foundation, Rabbi Steven Jacobs dedicates considerable time and energy to helping pave the way for peace between people of different faiths and ethnic groups. Before establishing the Progressive Faith Foundation, Rabbi Steven Jacobs served as a member of an interfaith coalition led by Reverend Jesse Jackson that negotiated the release of American soldiers captured in Yugoslavia in 1999.

The increasingly global nature of modern society requires people from many different religious groups to intermingle on a regular basis. Until fairly recently, religious populations tended to be separated by regional boundaries. Business concerns, improvements in travel infrastructure, and lower costs of air transportation allow people to move easily from one part of the world to another. People from religious groups that hold historic and deep-seated distrust of members of other faiths have to interact with each not only in business but in their everyday lives.

In the United States alone, residents practice hundreds of different religious faiths. Many of these faiths, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, stem from roots leading to Abraham, while others trace their origins to Asia and India. Although misunderstandings arise between members of various groups, kindness to others prevails as an important conviction in each of these religions. A focus on compassion and tolerance often helps people from disparate religious communities overcome their differences and establish connections that enhance rather than detract from their core beliefs.

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Asenath Barzani: Judaism’s First Woman Rabbi?

Rabbi Steven Jacobs is a dedicated spiritual leader and the founder of the Progressive Faith Foundation. A great advocate for civil rights and Jewish community relations, Rabbi Steven Jacobs serves on national boards pertaining to these matters, including Faith in Public Life, Equality California, and Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

In seventeenth century Kurdistan, Asenath Barzani was recognized for her thorough knowledge of the Torah, along with Kabbalistic and Talmudic law. Well-educated and raised by scholars, Asenath directed and taught in a male yeshiva, previously run by her father, scholar and leader Rabbi Samuel Barzani. Even after her marriage, her father stipulated in her marriage contract that household chores should not hinder his daughter’s ability to teach and learn. Following his death, Asenath went on to become the first female dean, head teacher, and Rosh Yeshiva.

In addition to her teaching duties, Asenath write poetry in the Hebrew language, and practiced the Kabbalah. It is believed that the term Tanna’it (female Talmudic scholar) was coined in order to define Asenath Barzani. Today, she is recognized by many as the first woman rabbi in Judaism.

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Common Ground Among the Abrahamic Faiths

Rabbi Steven Jacobs holds the attainment of intercultural and interfaith acceptance and harmony as his lifelong mission. Through his work with the Progressive Faith Foundation, Rabbi Steven Jacobs strives to foster racial and religious peace, especially among followers of the Abrahamic faiths.

To many people, the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity seem like absolutely different and irreconcilable faiths. The primary reason for this view of the religions as opposing and incompatible is a general lack of awareness regarding the similarities of these faiths and the intimate connections of their origins.

First, all three of these traditions are monotheistic, meaning they recognize only one deity. Second, they all believe that a singular deity provided a revelation to mankind concerning the nature of existence, and that by communicating with this deity through prayer and following certain guidelines of living, the faithful can become better, more perfect people. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, these three religions were all born of the same Middle Eastern traditions. Christianity grew out of Judaism, and Islam evolved from both. Indeed, the three faiths even recognize some of the same prophets. In today’s global community, it is more important than ever to recognize likenesses rather than differences, and to encourage respect for people of all faiths.

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The Interfaith Alliance Champions Individual Rights and Democracy

Steven B. Jacobs, retired rabbi and founder of the Progressive Faith Foundation, has served his faith community for more than 40 years. In addition to his rabbinical duties, he has consistently participated in numerous interfaith endeavors. Winner of the Interfaith Alliance Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award, Rabbi Steven Jacobs has spoken to black and Jewish congregations about such issues as marginalized Haitians and student voters in Florida.

As an organizational champion of protecting individual rights and the power of democracy, Interfaith Alliance challenges extremism at national and grassroots levels of American society. With core beliefs that reflect a democratic society, including American right to religious freedom and the threat of political and religious extremism to democracy, Interfaith Alliance serves as the country’s sole national interfaith organization with a mission to protect religious and democratic integrity.

Established in 1984, Interfaith Alliance maintains a current membership of 185,000 individuals representing 75 faith traditions and those without religious affiliation from around the United States. In a national and political environment in which religion plays an increasing role, Interfaith Alliance challenges religious bigotry when expressed by religious and political extremists in American politics.

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The Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award

The Interfaith Alliance is an American organization seeking to promote religious freedom and challenge extremism. In 1998, the alliance inaugurated its annual Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award to honor those who have addressed divisive issues with tolerance, respect, and civility. Past winners include news anchor Tom Brokaw, journalists Bill and Judith Moyers, former congressman Amo Houghton, and actor George Clooney, among others.

In 2001, the award went to Representative Chet Edwards and Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs. Rabbi Jacobs was recognized for, in the face of escalating violence in the Middle East, fostering dialogue among Southern California’s Muslim and Jewish citizens. He was also praised for his work toward bringing together the African American and Jewish communities to fight for workers’ rights and voting privileges.

After retiring to emeritus status in 2007, Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs founded the Progressive Faith Foundation in Calabasas, California, to advance relations among followers of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

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Rabbi Steven Jacobs – The Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award

A renowned retired California rabbi, Rabbi Steven Jacobs has assisted several humanitarian groups such as the Progressive Faith Foundation and the Black-Jewish Coalition. In 2001, Rabbi Steven Jacobs received the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award for his achievements in interfaith dialogue, labor rights, and racial justice.

Given by the Interfaith Alliance every year, the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award celebrates individuals who encourage democratic values and civic participation. The honor was created in 1998 and named after veteran news personality Walter Cronkite, who also served as the organization’s honorary chairman before passing away in 2009. Those who have won the award demonstrate qualities of tolerance, diversity, and cooperation, teach about controversial issues, and stand up for the rights of others.

Over the past 15 years, numerous notable personalities have received the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award. The first recipient was Cronkite himself, bestowed for his energetic discussion of the political use of religion. Since then, it has gone to the likes of George Clooney, Tom Brokaw, Larry King, and Judy Shepard. In 2012, the accolade was bestowed upon Mitchell Gold for his accomplishments in the LGBT community.

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