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Danbury News Times - August 27, 2017.

Letter to the editor

"The KKK, neo-Nazis and alt-right don't have the power," said Rush Limbaugh on the Aug. 18 WLAD broadcast and then he continued, "but I'll tell you who does! Black Lives Matter. And the left." Rush rounded out his view by essentially concluding groups like KKK simply do not have the power to shape how people think, vote, or act.

Interesting that Black Lives Matter would be aligned by Rush Limbaugh as "having power." He was not at all fond of their power. He proceeded to make fun of it.

Still, Rush could not help but admit that Black Lives Matter and other similar, but different, pop-up groups, as he described, "on the left," are the real movers and shakers in this country.

Throughout U.S. history, it is people who take to the streets that end up shaping the norms of society.

Up and until 1920 (just a few years before many of our mothers were born) women could not vote. Then came a grassroots pop-up group: the suffragettes. People thought they were weird, unfeminine, and un-American. We do not know the name of every suffragette. But we know what happened.

In 1965, The Voting Rights Act became law. Maybe you were in the civil rights movement or, if you're on the young side, have read about it in books. Whatever your age, you know the names "Rosa Parks" and "the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr." and you know what happened

Rush Limbaugh was quite right. The people taking to today's streets, the pop-up groups, are all over our country and cannot be written off.

There are pop-up groups right here in Danbury, standing up for love and justice. To borrow from someone we never thought we would quote, "they ARE more powerful than the KKK." Let that sink in, and keep popping up!

The Rev. Phyllis J. Leopold,
Executive director,
Association of Religious Communities
Rabbi Ari Rosenberg,
Executive director Temple Sholom,
and ARC board member

Letter to the Editor

The Association of Religious Communities
strongly condemns the white supremacist acts of violence,
bigotry and hate in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017. We mourn the
senseless loss of life and offer our deepest condolences and
love to the injured victims of these cowardly acts of terrorism.

Our nation is a place of vitality because of our diversity.
We stand in solidarity with those who also stand by the values
of honoring our existence as part of
one human family.

Everyone should feel safe to live, love, worship,
and walk in the street
without fear.

We stand in solidarity with those who want to
make America great, for all people.

On behalf of the ARC Board of Directors,
Joe Walkovich, Board President
Rev. Phyllis J. Leopold, Executive Director

Stop & Shop Donates $3K To Help Stock
ARC's Food Pantry In Danbury.


John Radaskie, front end manager for Stop & Shop, left, and store manager Richard Marcucio donate the check to Rev. Phyllis J. Leopold, ARC Executive Director.

DANBURY, Conn. - Stop & Shop recently donated nearly $3,000 to the food pantry for the Association of Religious Communities in Danbury.

The Rev. Phyllis J. Leopold, executive director of ARC, received the donation from store manager Richard Marcucio. The check is designated for Comida, ARC's food pantry. The funds for this donation were raised from the Food for Friends program, which is run in the supermarket and supported by it customers.

John Radaskie, Front End Manager was heavily involved in the Food for Friends program.

"The reason that we so appreciate this donation is that 42 percent of households in Danbury live at or below the poverty line," Leopold said. "By stocking the shelves of Comida we assist people so that they may be able to use less of their salaries to pay for basic food needs in order to put more of their salary toward rent and housing."

Last year, over 4,600 people in greater Danbury were helped by Comida. According to End Hunger CT, nearly 14 percent of state residents are food insecure and that figure has increased in recent years.


Revernd Phyllis J. Leopold

Executive Director: The Association of Religious Communities.

Article published in the Danbury News Times, February 11. 2017.

"Rally planned for Sunday to 'build briges' in the community"

Sunday, February 26, 2017

DANBURY - Religious leaders and community activists will gather downtown Sunday to spread a message of love and togetherness in a deeply divided nation.

The Association of Religious Communities (ARC) is sponsoring a Humanity Rally at 2 p.m. at the Central Christian Church to hear from people from different walks of life and promote social justice.

The Rev. Phyllis J. Leopold, executive director of ARC, got the idea for the rally after heard a sermon at Central Christian Church a few days before the presidential election. She was inspired by the sermon's message that no matter who won, there would be work to do afterward.

Leopold and Stephen Tickner, pastor at Central Christian Church and an ARC board member, began planning to do just that. But the urgency increased as reports surfaced of swastikas appearing in the Danbury area, including one painted on the home of an ARC board member. Later, after President Donald Trump's executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, four people close to ARC were detained at the airport.

Leopold said these incidents made many in the Muslim and immigrant communities afraid.

"We want to overcome some of that fear and let the community know there is goodness in the world, as well as right here in our towns," she said.

Leopold said the rally is meant to build and reinforce bridges:

"We just want for people of all ages to know that they're not in their own corners," she said. "That should something happen - let's just say for example to a Muslim person - the Ecuadorians are going to be there for them, and vice versa. It's really a rally with a concentration of trying to turn fear into hope, particularly for greater Danbury people who are Muslims or immigrants."

Although the rally grew out of the division and anger from the election, Rev. Bryn Smallwood-Garcia, an ARC board member and senior pastor at the Congregational Church of Brookfield, said the event is not a protest against Trump specifically.

"This is not an anti-Donald Trump rally," she said. "This is a bring-people-together [rally] to share their thoughts and stories and build some bridges, especially among faith communities."

The event will begin outside with speeches from State Rep. David Arconti; Wilson Hernandez, an ARC board member and leader in the Danbury Ecuadorian community; Mariam Khan, the daughter of the president of the Baitul Mukarram Masjid; Rabbi Nelly Altenburger of the Congregation B'nai Israel; and high-school student Sarah Bryant.

Attendees will then move inside for a "social justice fair" with materials for how to get involved in programs to help vulnerable communities. The fair will give people a chance to get to know one another and hear different perspectives, organizers said.

"When we have a chance to sit and talk and really hear from one another, people start to be real people and not labels," Smallwood-Garcia said.

Tickner said this will allow people to build new relationships and remind them to love their neighbor.

"I hope that Muslim groups and Christian groups can get together and talk to each other on a human level and see how we are similar," he said. "Just learn about each other's journeys in life, how.... [immigrants] can share their stories and get beyond the stereotypes."

Smallwood-Garcia said she hopes this makes more of a difference than a traditional march would.

"We need not just loud people standing up for justice, but we need quiet people sitting down for justice," she said. "And that's kind of what humanity is all about, that we recognize our shared humanity."

Smallwood-Garcia said these conversations will not stop at the rally. ARC is planning a series of events at different places of worship, including at interfaith multicultural potluck at her church on March 5.

"We need a chance for human beings to talk, instead of talking heads to shout at us," she said.


ARC Logo

Association of Religious Communities


CT Against Gun Violence

Statement of Concern

As individuals we believe people of faith unite in the belief that the love of humankind is not an option or privilege but is of paramount obligation for the concerned person.


  • We condemn the hate-filled mass shooting at the Orlando Nightclub
  • We stand against killing or violence against any community including LGBT
  • We strive for the day bigotry has no place to breathe and common sense gun laws prevail

Joe Walkovich
President, ARC Board
Michael Marcus
Vice President, ARC Board
Jim Maurer
Secretary, ARC Board
Willie Johnson
Treasurer, ARC Board
Rev. Dr. Joseph Kraskinski
Member, ARC Board
Rev. Pat Nicholas
Member, ARC Board
Ven. Wisdom Sakya
Member, ARC Board
Rabbi Jon Haddon
Member, ARC Board
Dr. William Glass
Member, ARC Board
Rev. Bryn Smallwood Garcia
Member, ARC Board
Shazeeda Khan
Member, ARC Board
Wilson Hernandez
Member, ARC Board

Ron Pinciaro, Executive Director, CT Against Gun Violence
Rev. Phyllis J. Leopold, Executive Director, Association of Religious Communities

Danbury Law Day - May 6th, 2016

The Law Day awards ceremony was held at the Danbury County Court House on White Street. Friday May 6, 2016.

The Rev. Phyllis "P.J." Leopold, executive director of the Association of Religious Communities (ARC), received the Liberty Bell Award, which is given annually to somebody who is a not a lawyer but has contributed significantly to the legal community.

Rev. PJ Leopold

Rev. Phyllis Leopold and Neil Marcus

Rev. PJ Leopold

ARC's Law Day awards group picture.

ARC staff, from the left: Emily Grillo, Rev. P.J. Leopold, Lise Marcus, Elke Sweeny and guest Don Lavallee.

Jo Gabriele

The Association of Religious Communities.

Jo Gabriele celebrates her 5th year on the staff of the Association of Religioun Communities (ARC).

"I can't believe I have been at The Association of Religious Communities (ARC) for 5 years now. By far, they have been a real highlight in my 45+ year working career.

"Thank you to PJ Leopold for presenting me with the opportunity to work for such an amazing organization that serves more than 8,000 people a year. Thank you for the lifelong friendships I have made, the wonderful co-workers I have had the pleasure to work with, the phenomenal volunteers who support our organization and most of all for the privilege of being able to serve God's most vulnerable children in our community. It sometimes is a wild ride, but I would not trade it for anything!"