Community leaders, experts, media to converge for poverty forum

“Unanswered Questions: Poverty and Political Solutions,” will be held at the Missouri History Museum at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, 24, when a broad-based coalition of community and religious leaders, academic experts and journalists will discuss the increasing incidence of poverty in Missouri and explore political options that might help solve the crisis.

The event is sponsored by Community Against Poverty (CAP), a coalition of community groups convened by the Jewish Community Relations Council. It is free and open to the public.

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“More than 740,000 Missourians are living in poverty today. The median income in our state is falling. More than 19,000 jobs have been lost since January of this year. Clearly, many of us are struggling and we are all affected by these struggles,” said Phyllis Markus, chair of the Social Justice Initiative of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), which is convening the event.

“We think the issues surrounding poverty are so crucial that we are not willing to abandon the chance to examine them,” Markus said. “We have a broad coalition of co-sponsors who have encouraged us to keep this issue on the front burner. Our media partners are eager to contribute their time and expertise. People are struggling in our state, and we’re determined to let our elected officials know how important their concerns are to us.”

A panel of journalists from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis American, the St. Louis Review, the St. Louis Jewish Light, KETC-TV and radio station KWMU will pose questions focusing on housing, hunger, health care, jobs and education. Historical perspective will be provided by Dr. Mark R. Rank, the Herbert Hadley Professor of Social Welfare at Washington University. Dr. Rank is recognized as one of the foremost experts in the country on issues of poverty, inequality and social justice, and is the author of “Living on the Edge: The Realities of Welfare in America,” and “One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All.” He will be joined on the panel by other academic and community experts and religious leaders.

“Our purpose with this event is to raise questions, explore issues, and deliver a message to candidates that the status quo is not acceptable,” Markus said.

The event also will feature a Coats and Cans collection. Persons attending the forum are asked to bring canned goods and clean, gently-worn winter coats, which will be distributed to the International Institute and area food pantries.

The JCRC’s Social Justice Initiative is the prime sponsor of this event. A number of civic and faith-based organizations are joining the JCRC to co-sponsor the event. They include: Catholic Charities, the Clergy Coalition of St. Louis, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Eden Theological Seminary, the Holden Public Policy Forum at Webster University, Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls, the International Institute, the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Jewish in St. Louis, Lutheran Family and Children’s Service, the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, the National Council of Jewish Women-St. Louis Section, the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, the St. Louis Beacon, the St. Louis Food Pantry Association, and Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice.

For additional information, contact Gail Wechsler, JCRC, 314-442-3894, e-mail: [email protected]