Jewish Community Relations Initiative Hires First Executive


(March 1, 2017, Phoenix, AZ) – The Jewish Community Relations Initiative (JCRI) takes its formal place within the Jewish community with the hiring of Karolyn Benger as its first executive director. This exciting “next step” after more than a year of behind-the-scenes-work will serve to better connect the Jewish community and provide an important platform for the many diverse voices of the community to be heard and celebrated while being guided by Jewish values.

The Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix (BOR), in conjunction with the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF), is excited to announce the formal beginnings of this initiative that will work to rebuild the voice of the Jewish community that was lost when the doors closed on the Jewish Community Relations Committee nine years ago. The work and relevance of the JCRI is ever more relevant during these challenging and divisive times.

“This effort began in earnest back in 2011 with a Jewish Community Conversation hosted by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix, and many individuals have been working towards this day ever since,” says Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman, a member of the BOR and representing Congregation Kehillah. “With the hiring of Karolyn, we are ready to step formally into the mix of Jewish organizations working to strengthen our ties and advance Jewish values that serve the greater community.”

Benger is the former Executive Director of the Jewish Interest Free Loan ofAtlanta. Since moving to Phoenix more than a year ago, she has worked as the Director of Community Services at the Jewish Free Loan here. She is agraduate of Emory University with a degree in Political Science and a specialization in the Middle East. She has taught courses in Comparative Politics, Political Islam, and Politics of the Middle East at Emory University, Georgia Tech and Emerson College. Ms. Benger is a published author of both academic and non-academic works with areas of focus including political oppositional groups in Egypt. She regularly speaks on Democratization in the Middle East, Women in Islam and Islamist organizations. Ms. Benger has volunteered with various organizations such as Yad Chessed, St. Vincent DePaul, Phoenix Hebrew Academy, Temima High School, and worked directly with students at Boston University Hillel and Rayim Connection, a full inclusion camp for children with special needs.

Benger officially started in her position on February 1, 2017. Working with a founding board of directors, the focus and scope of work for the JCRI will take shape. To find out more or connect in with the JCRI, community members are invited to go to

Karolyn Benger

About the Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix

The Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix serves the Phoenix metropolitan area. Its membership consists of rabbis who have joined together for professional and social interaction and support, as well as religious and educational enrichment. The members are committed to the ideal of K’lal Yisrael, the unity of the Jewish community, in fulfilling the purposes and goals of Judaism in a way that is beneficial to all concerned. The organization’s officers include: President: Rabbi Jeremy Schneider; Vice-President: Rabbi Bob Kravitz; Secretary: Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman; Treasurer: Rabbi Micah Caplan; Immediate Past President: Rabbi Rony Keller.

About the Jewish Community Relations Initiative

The mission of the Jewish Community Relations Initiative (JCRI) is to foster dialogue and understanding within the Jewish and larger metropolitan communities, to amplify Jewish voices within and outside of the Jewish community in response to matters of importance to the Jewish people and on issues that inherently cry out for a Jewish response, to facilitate collaborations for good among Jews and between the Jewish community and its neighbors. The JCRI’s nonprofit status is pending and is currently operating under the auspices of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix. A founding board and executive director will continue to shape this start-up initiative serving as a critical resource to and on behalf of the Jewish community in the greater Phoenix region.