Shared from the 11/17/2019 San Antonio Express eEdition


Together, San Antonians of all faiths take on homelessness


Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl: The Interfaith San Antonio Alliance is a collective voice of faith.

On Friday, I was fortunate to be among scores of local religious leaders belonging to the Interfaith San Antonio Alliance, or ISAA, who gathered at Haven for Hope. We were there to sign a proclamation to address, from a faith perspective, the societal crisis resulting from homelessness, lack of affordable housing and gentrification in our city.

Among those speaking at the event were Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, Pastor Max Lucado, the Rev. Ann Fraser, Imam Omar Shakir, the Rev. Mignon Jones-Spann, Dr. G.P. Singh and Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

Because the mission of Haven for Hope has been the alleviation of homelessness, we believe this was the most appropriate venue for signing the proclamation.

ISAA has brought together San Antonio’s leaders from the widest spectrum of religious traditions to date. For many decades, interfaith relations involved only Protestants, Catholics and Jews. ISAA has significantly broadened that scope to include Muslims and Sikhs, and its members hope to expand further with leaders from additional faith groups.

ISAA is probably the youngest local interfaith organization. Three years ago, Rabbi Steve Gutow, a Dallas native and a passionate advocate for social justice, asked me to help him launch the Religious Leadership and Public Engagement Project, organized by New York University, in San Antonio.

Its goal was for faith leaders of our community to bond more closely by engaging in humanitarian projects that benefit our community. We know that by acting together, while respecting our respective religious traditions, we may be able to improve and enhance the quality of life here.

Rabbi Gutow, the co-director of the NYU project, originally chose San Antonio and Indianapolis, because both cities are large enough to test whether this new organizing approach would work in significant but manageable urban areas. Since then, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Miami have joined the effort.

Approximately 40 San Antonio faith leaders of ISAA met on numerous occasions to determine the project to pursue. After much deliberation and debate, we chose our initial project — to sensitize our congregations to the 150,000 San Antonians who suffer from abject poverty and a woeful lack of safe, secure and affordable shelter.

We have asked our ISAA colleagues to consider different actions: to deliver sermons from their pulpits on the housing crisis as a moral issue; to organize a congregationwide, hands-on project to confront this crisis; and to confer frequently with members of City Council and other local officials responsible for local housing needs.

We are grateful that our City Council and Mayor Nirenberg have made combating this problem their highest priority with the mayor’s housing policy framework.

Our policy decisions are made by a board of directors: Father Larry Christian, vicar general of the Archdiocese of San Antonio; Lukin Gilliland Jr., a San Antonio businessman; Gutow, Religious Leadership and Civic Engagement Project co-director; the Rev. Les Hollon, senior pastor at Trinity Baptist Church; Jones-Spann, minister of adults, discipleship and evangelism at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church; Judith Lackritz, retired community relations director and Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio director; and Jack Reese, former senior minister at Oak Hills Church.

We have obtained tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization, and we’ve engaged the Rev. Wyndee Holbrook as our project coordinator to move the program forward.

The prophet Jeremiah has enjoined us to seek the welfare of the city in which we are living. Through our association with ISAA, as a collective voice of faith, we hope to fulfill Jeremiah’s mandate and begin to complete God’s unfinished business in our community.

Samuel M. Stahl is rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth-El and a co-founder and board member of the Interfaith San Antonio Alliance.

See this article in the e-Edition Here
Edit Privacy