Founders Day: Rabbi Matt Cutler to delve into constructive dialogue for positive change

Publication Date

Rabbi Matt Cutler’s Founders Day talk will draw inspiration from the script on the roof tiles of the Nott Memorial, which reads, in part, “The Day is Short and the Work is Great.”

Rabbi Matt Cutler

“It’s not our obligation to complete the task or to solve every problem, but we cannot exempt ourselves from engaging in healthy, positive, constructive dialogue and work to build a better world,” said the spiritual leader of Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady.

“We want to challenge the community to rise up and have the best possible discourse with very uncomfortable conversations in which there can be no clear cut resolution,” he said. “We want to find a way for people to have empathy for both sides of the equation in order to establish peace.”

Founders Day, on Thursday, Feb. 29, at 1 p.m. in Memorial Chapel, is free and open to the public.

This year’s Founders Day convocation commemorates the 229th anniversary of the granting of Union’s charter by the state Board of Regents, widely regarded as the one of the first public calls for higher education.

Rabbi Cutler’s talk comes as his congregation deals with the heartbreak of the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel. Eshkol, where the attacks were centered, is a sister city to the Schenectady congregation.

Since joining Congregation Gates of Heaven as spiritual leader in 1995, Cutler has been a prominent clergy leader focused on fostering interfaith dialogue. He is the national co-chair of JubileeUSA, an interfaith organization that seeks to relieve poverty and heartache for the world’s poorest and most impoverished people.

Locally, he is a co-founder of Schenectady Clergy Against Hate, an interfaith leadership group dedicated to crossing religious and political lines to foster healthy dialogue toward building a strong community. Cutler was on campus Jan. 18 with Imam Genghis Khan and the Rev. Amaury Tañón-Santos for a Constructive Engagement event moderated by President David Harris.

Also at Founders Day, the College will present the Gideon Hawley Teacher Recognition Award. Named for the 1809 graduate of Union who was New York state’s first superintendent of public education, the award is given to secondary school teachers who have had a continuing influence on the academic life of Union students.

The event also includes the world premiere of a musical composition by Jackson Janney '24.

Past Founders Day speakers have included National Book Award winner Andrea Barrett ’74; Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Richard Russo and James M. McPherson; Paul LeClerc, retired president and chief executive officer of the New York Public Library and a former professor at Union; and Joanna Stern ’06, senior personal technology columnist at the Wall Street Journal.

Founders Day will be livestreamed on Union's Facebook page.