MooreUnity in Moorestown aims to strengthen connections in the community

Volunteer-led group hosts panel discussions on diversity, equity and inclusion.

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/The Sun: An illustration of the word “love” interpreted in sign language (above center) is on the pavement adjacent to Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown. MooreUnity has previously held meetings at Perkins.

Karen Reiner witnessed too many hate crimes happening right in her own backyard in February 2017.

According to Reiner, there were residents in Moorestown and Cinnaminson who discovered Ku Klux Klan flyers in their driveways. Community members voiced their outrage and disgust over such actions on one of Moorestown’s Facebook groups.

“I added a post that said, ‘anybody who wants to actually take steps to do something send me a quick message and we’ll build a little planning team,’” Reiner noted

Within about two hours, she had close to 100 private messages from people who wanted to be a part of the process.

A day or two after residents in Moorestown and Cinnaminson discovered the flyers in their driveways, Reiner remembers hearing that Jewish cemeteries and Jewish community centers were being desecrated in areas that included Philadelphia and Cherry Hill.

“It just felt like every other day you turned around and there was somebody that you loved who no longer felt safe,” said Reiner.

It was after witnessing these acts of violence that Reiner decided to form MooreUnity.

According to its official website, MooreUnity is a civic group formed by engaged citizens in the wake of increasing divisions locally and across the nation. MooreUnity works to increase and strengthen the connections within local communities through programming designed to bring individuals from different walks of life together.

Although MooreUnity does not have weekly or monthly meetings, there is a formal Facebook page and private Facebook group for people who are interested in joining and making a difference in their community. Members are also free to suggest ideas for programming or help spread the word.

“We benefit a lot by learning from people who look different than us, worship differently than us, may think differently from us, and they also benefit from knowing that we’re open to hearing a perspective,” Reiner explained.

The first event MooreUnity hosted was a panel discussion on race relations and inclusion  moderated by 6ABC anchorman Rick Williams, with 100 people in attendance.

“We had panelists that represented the Black community, the gay community, we had a panelist from the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, and we had a Muslim woman, a white woman and we maybe had six or seven people on stage,” Reiner recalled.

“They fielded questions from the audience about their experiences as people who have occasionally felt marginalized, and it was a great discussion,” she added.

Since then, MooreUnity has held several panel discussions focused on creating diversity and equity, and starting the first week of November, Reiner and Tamara Johns will facilitate “Our Stories-Brave Conversations on Race.” Once a week for six weeks, five people of color and five white people will come together to talk about race, racism, what they learned about racism growing up, whether they were taught racist beliefs and different ways to overcome it.

“I always hope that people learn something new that opens their hearts and their minds and enables them to shoot for their mindset a little to be more welcoming and more supportive of people who might be different from them,” Reiner said.