Poverty, Welfare and Religion Symposium Presented at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dean Jonathan Cohen, Father Michael Graham, Rabbi Irvin Wise, and Dr. Gary P. Zola

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion presented a three day Poverty, Welfare and Religion Symposium: Toward Understanding and Addressing Working Poverty in the United States in partnership with Jewish Family Service and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism from December 4 - December 6.  It was sponsored by the Dr. Norma K. and Donald J. Stone Fund of the HUC-JIR Center for Ethics and Contemporary Issues, and brought together to the Cincinnati campus clergy, academics, and service providers who will work the community to create and continue advocacy efforts. 

Over the course of the three days, keynote speakers were Jonathan Kozol, noted author, activist, and  academic who is best known for his work on the intersection of education and poverty in the United States; Joseph McCartin, Professor of History and Director of the Kalmanovitz Institute for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University; Eduardo Bonilla Silva, Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at Duke University; and The Right Reverend Thomas Breidenthal, Episcopal Bishop of Southwest Ohio.  In addition, more than 40 other prominent local and national clergy, academics, experts, advocates, and community activists served on panels, gave presentations, and facilitated discussions. 

Jonathan Kozol, Keynote Speaker

On the first afternoon, Rabbi Irvin Wise of Adath Israel Congregation and Father Michael Graham, President of Xavier University, spoke on religious obligation and response to working poverty.  Jonathan Kozol’s address was an overview of working poverty in the United States, focusing on the impact it has on education.  The following morning he met with a group of students and teachers from three Cincinnati Public Schools: Roselawn-Condon, Rothenberg, and College Hill Fundamental Academy. 

Other presentations focused on Cincinnati community efforts; challenges with employment; gentrification and housing; federal advocacy; the local government’s response to working poverty; education and youth services; and racial and ethnic health disparities.  The additional keynote addresses addressed labor organization, politics and public policy; ethics, religion and poverty; and racism and working poverty.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu