I recently met with seven religious leaders in what is believed to be the city’s first meeting of its kind and expect this group to reconnect and grow next summer to discuss the broad range of issues impacting our community now and for the future. The article below provides a great recap of our discussion and upcoming initiatives.

Highland Park seeks clergy’s help in meeting needs

Mayor, religious leaders discuss food drive to coincide with Easter, Passover

By Donald LiebensonSpecial to the Tribune

6:05 p.m. CST, February 9, 2014

Highland Park wants to work with area clergy to meet the needs of the community’s most vulnerable residents.

Mayor Nancy Rotering recently met with seven religious leaders in what is believed to be the city’s first meeting of its kind. Rotering expects the group to reconnect next summer. “This is the beginning of what I know will be a long-term conversation,” she said.

Present at the 45-minute city hall meeting were Rev. David Perkins of Highland Park Presbyterian Church, Highland Park; Rev. Nathan LeMahieu of Christ Church, Highland Park; Rabbi Ike Serrota of Lakeside Congregation for Reform Judaism, Highland Park; Rabbi Vernon Kurtz of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Glencoe; Rabbi Bruce Elder of Congregation Hakafa, Glencoe; Tom Gindorff of the Bahai Faith and Rev. Thomas F. Baldonieri of St. James Church, Highwood.

“It was an opportunity for all of us to come together to discuss the needs of our community and the opportunities for collaboration to meet those needs,” Rotering said. “We cast a wide net to invite clergy from Glencoe, Winnetka and environs whose congregants include those who live in Highland Park.”

Rotering said “a great conversation” took place, during which she shared what Highland Park is doing at the city level in terms of human services. She said the city is keeping streets and sidewalks clear of snow for people who walk to religious services and helping seniors get to religious services as well as meetings.

One initiative immediately identified at the meeting, she said, was a food drive that would coincide with the Passover and Easter season.

The meeting, Rotering said, was in some ways an eye-opener for her. “I was not aware, for example that Christ Church has a significant number of young families, including military families, a group that may not as yet be involved in the community for whatever reason,” she said. “We want to be sure that they are invited to our New Resident Breakfast on April 12, which will give them an opportunity to meet us and for us to assist them to become new members of the community.”

LeMahieu said he appreciated the invitation to the meeting. “I’ve always been interested in developing a relationship with the mayor and the city council. Members of our church are always asking about strategic ways that we can be making an impact in our community, so I appreciated this invitation very much.”

The meeting, LeMahieu added, “was helpful in presenting a variety of perspectives, since our congregations represent different demographic segments. Being a newer church, our young families are concerned about issues such as school consolidation and property tax relief.”

Elder said he appreciated the mayor’s efforts “to reach out to various community stakeholders and residents to share ideas and hear feedback.

“It shows a responsiveness to her constituents and the people whom she serves,” he added. “We are a natural group to which to reach out, and, in turn, we can be an asset to the mayor should she need to reach out to others.”

The group expects to meet again next summer and all area clergy are invited. Rotering anticipates that housing, transit and maintaining area food pantries will top the agenda.

“It was a good opening conversation,” Perkins said. “(I look forward to) touching base to see how we can work together, not just with the city, but with each other to do the kind of work that needs to be done to help the community.”


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