Strangers No More was formed during the aftermath of the tragic murders at the Jewish Community Campus and Village Shalom in April 2014. In response to these events, Rabbi Mark Levin released a statement to Attorney General Eric Holder. It read, “Jews are seen on a continuum between outsider and beloved friend. But few of our neighbors truly understand us or our religion, neither do they desire to. We are largely strangers to each other.” Upon reading this letter, Sharon Ritter, United Methodist Women (UMW) President, and Nancy Brown, UMW Social Action Chair, were moved to reach out to their Jewish friends. They contacted Judy Hellman, Marcia Rittmaster and Henri Goettel. These women became the leadership of Strangers No More; Michelle McQuinn Lentell joined the group of organizers in 2017. Between the six organizers, known a “conveners,” there are exactly three Christians and three Jews.[1]

The organization receives financial support from the UMW and the Jewish Community Relations Bureau/American Jewish Committee (JCRB/AJC). This covers small expenses such as food and beverages provided at events. Carol Burton from JCRB/AJC functions as the Administrative Assistant. Programming and schedules are decided among all conveners and staff. The group is exclusively open to women, as they believe men can often change group dynamics.[2]

The mission of Strangers No More is to “Construct paths to understanding, build bridges through developing relationships, develop new understandings of what it means to be citizens of a loving community created in the Image of God, and pursue the possibility of future events and ways to unite and work together to make a difference in our own lives and in our community.” The group’s target demographic is Jewish and Christian women and does not permit proselytizing or discussing politics. While they are open to women of any faith joining the organization, their programming maintains a focus on Jewish-Christian relations.[3]

Their most successful program began as an informal coffee house gathering. The group, which has now outgrown the coffee house, meets twice a month; the gatherings rotate between a local library and synagogue. The program, now titled “Coffee and Conversation,” averages thirty attendees. Strangers No More does a collaborative service project once a year, as well as an education program in the fall and spring. In the past, they hosted panel discussions featuring female rabbis and pastors to discuss faith and anti-Semitism.[4]

When asked how the organization has changed them, convener, Sharon Ritter, states, “As Christians, it is very interesting to understand the Bible from the Jewish perspective. Many of us had very subtle negative biases built into our Biblical education and don’t even realize that we have these biases. What we have learned is to listen with different ears, to detect these biases and understand the hurt that prejudice causes.” [5]



[1] Ritter, Sharon, interview by Geneva Blackmer. 2018. Strangers No More. (December 26).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.