DETROIT - Black and Jewish leaders from across the country are in Detroit this week to bond while finding ways to fight poverty at a time when the problem is growing.
Sponsored by the national office of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the program involves three days of activities with about 20 Jewish and African-American leaders who will be paired up to foster friendship, reports a local newspaper.
In addition to fighting poverty, the goal of the program is to improve relations between the two minority communities.
"It's not as close as it was," Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said of black-Jewish ties. But "there's still an underlying connection."
Starting today, the participants will be meeting with Focus: HOPE, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries and the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, among other agencies, to hear how groups are trying to fight poverty in a struggling region.
In Detroit, more than 36% of residents are living poverty while across Michigan, the poverty rate is more than 22%, according to 2009 U.S. Census figures.
The program will include leaders from Denver, New York and Nashville, Tenn., among other cities.
"We're facing a world where there will be more and more poverty," Gutow said. "There will be more and more poor people in the streets of our country. And so having relationships will be very important to resolve the problem."
After the gathering ends, the plan is for the partners to keep in touch "as friends and look at their own communities" to help deal with poverty, he said.
QuanTez Pressley, 24, a youth pastor at Hartford Memorial Baptist and director of community outreach for City Council President Charles Pugh, is one of the participants.
"I'm looking forward to learning from people all over the country," he said. Pressley said the partnership highlights the ties between younger generations of blacks and Jews.