RABBI WAYNE M. FRANKLIN, leader of interfaith dialogues for Temple Emanu-El in Providence, was presented with the Honorary Chairs’ Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. Franklin has served as a faith leader, educator and advocate for civic dialogue for more than three decades. He previously chaired the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Engagement during the administration of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and was a member of the Providence Faith, Community and Law Enforcement Leaders Dialogue Group.
What does receiving this award from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities mean to you? It was a total surprise. I am very honored. I haven’t done this kind of work that I’ve been doing for a long time expecting any kind of recognition or awards. It was really out of the blue.
What kind of dialogue do you introduce to the area to help bridge the differences of opinion between people? … My friend, Arthur Urbano, a professor of theology at Providence College … has been organizing programs twice a year on dialogue issues. In the spring, he invites two people – one Catholic and one Jewish – to do a dual presentation. These dual presentations often involve a public lecture in the evening or a seminar for advanced students and faculty. Many of the faculty members at PC were priests. I gathered some Jewish people and other people and we meet a few times a year and have discussed a whole variety of subjects. We’ve also … taught a class here at Temple Emanu-El in the spring that’s open to our congregation and the community on topics of interest. We’ve talked about creation stories in the Bible on some Catholic/Jewish points of view.
In what ways did you help Providence Mayor Angel Taveras during his administration to get the local youth engaged in the community? One of the things we did was organized an event that [Providence Career & Technical Academy] put on where … kids from various churches and synagogues and schools were invited to get together to get to know each other through various games and recreational activities.
What are your future plans to help strengthen the community, particularly welcoming immigrant communities to Rhode Island? I don’t have anything on docket right now, but we have an active social justice committee at the synagogue. Last year, when this immigration crisis came to the forefront, we collected several thousand dollars to be donated to an organization that helps resettle immigrants, particularly Syrian immigrants. We also collected a variety of household goods to give to people who were coming new to the community.