Women Go Beyond Faith for Common Good

December 9, 2006

Author: Rebecca Rakoczy

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


A candle is lit. A brass bowl is struck. The ringing sound echoes in a simple cinder-block office as eight women of different beliefs -- including a "fallen-away" Catholic, a secular humanist and an agnostic -- contemplate what they're grateful for.

It's the opening to another meeting of the Atlanta Women's Foundation Faith, Feminism and Philanthropy initiative, where participants share stories of faith. The goals are to bridge the divide between faith-based communities and feminists and to address the problem of women and poverty. The program draws from the work of Helen LaKelly Hunt and her book, "Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance" (Atria, $14).

"There are stories of people of deep faith who are moved for social justice and social action out of their faith beliefs," said Deborah Richardson, executive director of the group. "And there are secular feminists who move through social action and social change, based on their belief of a just society. Therefore, the root of the action may be coming from a different place, but the catalyst that moves people toward that action is basically the same."

The fledgling foundation -- which has met in mosques, synagogues, churches, homes and offices -- recruited more than 150 women of different races and creeds to form 17 groups across metro Atlanta. The group is funded by a grant from the Dallas-based Ruth Ray Hunt Memorial Fund of the Community Foundation of Texas and the Dallas Women's Foundation.

For many women, making a difference means getting out of their comfort zone.

Nina Salkin, who came to Atlanta from New York when her husband was named senior rabbi at The Temple, knew it meant expanding her circle of acquaintances.