Encounter RVA: What We Do

Hosted by Rabbi Michael Knopf, Encounter RVA is a series of public conversations featuring local religious, civic, and thought leaders from backgrounds as diverse as possible.


To bridge divides, deepen understanding, foster diverse relationships, and move our community forward in these troubled and divisive times.


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.

The Encounter RVA Experience:

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.