Jackie Congedo, Director, the Jewish Community Relations Council

Jackie Congedo, Director, the Jewish Community Relations Council



The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), the non-partisan, public affairs arm of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, has launched Leaders in Light, a first-of-its kind, year-long leadership development program. Participants from all sectors, backgrounds and beliefs will connect in learning and action to build a stronger Cincinnati that is home to a thriving, healthy, and civil society where hate and extremism can’t take root.

“This is an amazing opportunity to really dig in to some topics that you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn about,” said Sherri Goren Slovin, who served as the lead trainer for the Beyond Civility workshops, and will co-facilitate the Institute sessions with Kevin Aldridge, Opinion Editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Participants will learn how to better understand the conditions that erode inclusive democracy — things like the rise of conspiracy theory, and the disintegration of a central, trusted news source. These are all things we are facing, and they require deeper study.”

The initiative is designed to develop a network of informed and skilled stewards of democratic engagement; leaders who are equipped with the contemporary understanding and modern tools designed to help them steer their respective organizations and networks, as well as our collective community, through these volatile, divisive, and polarized times. The first cohort, launching this fall, is made up of twenty-seven participants with a wide variety of civic and faith backgrounds. Each leader will leverage their extended networks to multiply influence and maximize impact, working together to create systemic change and empower positive outcomes. Leaders in Light has support from The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati; The One8 Foundation; the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation; and individual donors.

The first class of participants includes:

• Desiré Bennett, Senior Social Equity Specialist, Design Impact

• Tammy Bennett, Partner, Chief Equity + Inclusion Officer, Dinsmore

• State Senator Louis Blessing III, State Senator, 8th District | Engineer, Super Systems Inc.

• Dr. Paul Booth, Jr., Lead Pastor, Legacy Pointe Church | President, Concentric Brands

• Andrew Ciafardini, Head of Corporate & External Affairs, FIS

• Leo D'Cruz, Cofounder & Chief Strategic Officer, Reverb

• Pastor Norma Lynn Felts, Pastor, Lee Chapel A.M.E. Church

• Dani Isaacsohn, CEO & Founder, Cohear

• Dr. Robert Kahn, Executive Lead, Community Health, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

• State Representative Brigid Kelly, State Representative, Ohio’s 31st House District

• Marie Krulewitch-Browne, Founder/Executive & Artistic Director, ish

• Beryl Love, Editor and Vice President of News, Cincinnati Enquirer

• Dr. Mack Mariani, Professor of Political Science, Xavier University

• Kenji Matsudo, Superintendent, Madeira City Schools

• Lucy May, Reporter, WCPO 9

• Thomas McLaughlin, VP of Patron Experience & Community Engagement, Cincinnati Ballet

• Andrew Musgrave, Director, Catholic Social Action, Archdiocese of Cincinnati

• Susan B. Noonan, Board President, FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association

• Lauren O'Brien, Business Continuity and Disaster Resiliency Planner, Northern Kentucky Area Development District

• Ioanna Paraskevopoulos, Co-Founder/Executive Director, Action Tank

• Rev. Nelson Jerome Pierce, Jr., Senior Pastor, Beloved Community Church | Grassroots Power Builder, Democracy for America

• Pamela Rincones, 2nd Vice President, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

• The Rev. Melanie Slane, Associate for Mission and Liturgy, Episcopal Church of the Redeemer

• Rickell Howard Smith, Executive Director, Center for Social Justice, Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

• Julie Sunderland, Program Manager, Cincinnati Regional Coalition Against Hate

• Joey Taylor, Director, Bespoken Live

• Kyla Woods, Public Information Officer, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

Leaders in Light has two components. The first is a series of monthly seminars over a nine-month period, starting in September of 2021 and running through May of 2022. Upon the completion of the seminars, the second component will feature practical application of the seminar content, in which participants will leverage their learnings to enhance their own work, raise awareness and inspire action in their respective communities, and catalyze change.

While the benefit to broader society is clear, participants of the Leaders in Light cohort will personally benefit as well. They will develop the essential skills and knowledge to help lead their organizations in polarized times against extremism and hate; they will also gain a deep understanding of what is driving the most fundamental disconnects in our society today, including the erosion of truth and trust, the threat of conspiracy theory, and the rise of fear and scarcity. Over the course of the institute, these leaders will develop relationships that will position them at the center of the emerging movement to strengthen Cincinnati’s civil society, and benefit from mentorship to help them drive change in their communities.

Leaders in Light is presented in partnership with The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives and the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center. Its Executive Committee is composed of a diverse group of thought leaders from the Cincinnati civic, business, and interfaith spaces; it is charged with high-level oversight of the institute, including playing a key role in mapping out the vision and identifying program goals and key outcomes.

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