I read the recent article about the upcoming JCCSLO-sponsored Jewish Film Festival (“A mitzvah with movies,” Jan. 3) with mixed emotions. I am grateful that New Times is publicizing the festival and highlighting the diversity of the Jewish experience. But I must voice my disappointment in the way Mr. Powell characterized JCC Executive Director Lauren Bandari’s feelings about the Central Coast faith community.
I have been a member of this community since 1985 and serve as rabbi at Congregation Ohr Tzafon (“Northern Light”) in Atascadero, and as the interfaith liaison for JCCSLO. The mission of the JCC is to foster a united Jewish community and to host programs for the general public that celebrate Jewish culture. Lauren Bandari takes that mission very seriously and is a passionate bridge builder in this community. Muara Johnston, the co-director of the festival, is a practicing Catholic. By framing Ms. Bandari’s actual words with his editorializing, Mr. Powell chips away at the positive interfaith partnerships that Lauren and the rest of us in Jewish leadership have worked so hard to nurture. I find it offensive that he calls people of faith “Bible-thumping kooks.” Those characterizations do not represent the intention or beliefs of Lauren Bandari, the JCC, or me as a Jewish religious leader.
Jews have been part of the fabric of San Luis Obispo County since the late 1800s. We are active in the business community, civic organizations, and in the faith community. I am a member of the SLO Ministerial Association and People of Faith for Justice, organizations that promote interfaith dialogue and understanding. We work together to find our common purpose but work even harder to promote respect and understanding of our unique differences.
It is true that Jews are a religious minority in SLO County but we are no less invested in the civic and spiritual well being of this community and are committed to building partnerships that nurture this endeavor.