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The vision of Encounter RVA is to bridge divides, deepen understanding, foster diverse relationships, and move our community forward in these troubled and divisive times.

In this program, Rabbi Michael Knopf  will host a series of public conversations featuring local religious, civic, and thought leaders from backgrounds as diverse as possible.

On some occasions, Rabbi Knopf and a guest will interview each other, engaging in dynamic discussion and even debate each other’s answers. On other occasions, two guests will interview each other in a similar fashion (some months, Rabbi Knopf will have a previous guest invite a new guest for their own public conversation). In every instance, participants will be chosen to showcase differing points of view and/or bring together people who want to understand each other better.

There will always be time for audience Q&A, and, via a guerilla social media effort, the wider public will be invited to suggest discussion questions for the thought leaders on stage in advance of each event.

Our intention is that these conversations will not be “fluff.” Rather, they will be designed to be meaningful and meaty, delving into topics like God, faith, ethics, the human condition, politics, scripture, and ministry, probing into what folks really believe - in all their uniqueness and diversity. We won’t shy away from conflict, disagreement, and debate, but will commit to do so from a place of deep respect for one another, modelling civility even in passionate disagreement that is so crucial for this moment. Folks will seriously learn about other pathways beyond their normal comfort-zones. Through it all, we will all come to understand each other better and strengthen our larger communal fabric.

Encounter RVA will nurture relationships, not just among the people on the stage, but between audience members. Our hypothesis is that a diverse audience will show up for the chance to see a Jewish communal leader engaging on a deep level with other diverse leaders in a public space. There will be time  before and after the program for audience members to mingle over refreshments.

Session 5 (April 11, 2018): from left to right: Rabbi Knopf,  Rev. Kathryn Pocalyko, Pastor of Lutheran Church of our Saviour, and Father Michael Renninger, Pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church


All sessions include an audience Q & A portion. Ask us in advance!
Email Rabbi Knopf or through social media using #

Click on each event below to RSVP.

There are no upcoming events at this time.


Encounter in the News


Session 1 (Nov. 8, 2017): Rabbi Michael Knopf and Pastor Jim Somerville of First Baptist Church


Session 2 (Dec. 6, 2017): Rabbi Michael Knopf and Ammar Ammonette, Imam of the Islam Center of Virginia

Session 3 (Jan. 24, 2018): Linda Tissiere, CEO, YWCA, and Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director, ACLU, Hosted by Rabbi Michael Knopf

Session 4 (Feb. 7, 2018):  Dr. David Dwight, Head Pastor and founder of Hope Church,  Dr. Archana Pathak, VCU dept. of Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies, Hindu and Social Justice activist

Session 6 (May 2, 2018): Dave Brat (R), Congressman, VA District 7, and Donald McEachin (D), Congressman, Va District 5

Sun, October 1 2023 16 Tishrei 5784