Interfaith Conversation Tackles Race


Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia and five other religious organizations are participating in multi-session seminars about race called “Faith Forum Conversation Circles,” taking place monthly through May 22. A wrap-up community-wide event is set for June 4, hosted by U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-District 7).

The interfaith project addresses difficult questions about race, racism and bias through four sessions at six Howard County congregations: Beth Shalom Congregation, Glen Mar United Methodist Church, Maryum Islamic Center, St. John Baptist Church, St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia.

“We here at Beth Shalom have been involved in interfaith conversations for many years now,” said Rabbi Susan Grossman. She added that while recent community conversations on race were successful in building understanding, faith leaders felt there was a need to “go deeper.”

The meetings are every fourth Tuesday and designed with small, set conversation groups that carry through each session. Even though the sessions began Feb. 27, Grossman said people are encouraged to get in on the conversation on March 27 at the participating faith facility closest to their neighborhood, get into a group and attend succeeding events on April 24 and May 22.

“We have trained facilitators in each congregation to teach a new way of communicating in a very spiritually generous and curious way. We’re going to talk about things that might be really tough to hear, but we want to hear, listen actively, share our personal experiences and then ask questions so we get to understand each other. And that’s the beginning,” Grossman said.

Rabbi Susan Grossman (Photo provided)

“The ultimate goal would be to self-reflect in how we might want to change,” she said. “And in our last session in May we will reflect on what can the community do together around some of these issues. So, we’re going to have some action items that are community-based and then we’ll have a closing community event in June.”

“These conversation circles are very intentionally designed to facilitate courageous conversations about race and about ethnicity and religious intolerance and bias,” Grossman added. “It can be a community-transforming experience.”

For more information and to register, visit


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