2023 Person of the Year: Nancy Kasten

Faith Commons chief relationship officer encourages interfaith dialogue

Rabbi Nancy Kasten, chief relationship officer at Faith Commons, works to develop relationships for the interfaith nonprofit and build on ones she’s established during her 35 years in Dallas.

She coordinates conversations among different faiths regarding issues such as voter protection, welcoming of refugees and asylum seekers, access to reproductive health care, and free speech protection among others.

Her advocacy earned our admiration, making her Preston Hollow People’s Person of the Year.

“I love meeting people … and also connecting people to each other to work on issues, people who may not know each other already (or) may not know what each other is doing to address the same issues,” Kasten said.

She’s recently been involved in a Faith Commons initiative to address food insecurity in South Dallas through sustainable solutions. The nonprofit has convened people from organizations and agencies addressing food insecurity to bring fresh produce, healthy food, and nutrition education through local gardens, corner stores, and bodegas.

Her involvement with Faith Commons came shortly after it was founded by Dr. George Mason in 2018.

“It was just a way to do everything that I was already doing but with an incredible platform and resources,” she said. “And of course, George has his own wonderful reputation in the community and his own relationships that could be built upon.”

Interfaith work is especially important now for Americans to work together in the interest of the country’s founding principles — freedom of religion and the welcoming of people from different faith traditions — Kasten says.

“I’ve always been drawn to interfaith work because I feel like I understand my own faith better when I see it in contrast to other people’s faith,” she said. “I also feel like, especially in a place like Dallas where the Jewish community is small, … I think it’s important to be a representative of the Jewish people.”

Kasten helped plan a trip with Faith Commons to Israel and Palestine in early October, but it was canceled when Hamas attacked Israel the day before their planned departure. Attendees were scheduled to spend time with organizations building peace and rehumanizing Israelis and Palestinians to “(find) ground for civil society.”

“It’s taken some regrouping to figure out how to translate the values and the goals of that trip into work here … as this war plays itself out, but we’re trying to do that work too,” she said.

Kasten has also attended pro-Israeli and Palestinian events to promote more understanding. She also encourages Americans to embrace opportunities to hear each other’s stories rather than clinging to ideas of how to solve the conflict.

District 11 City Councilwoman Jaynie Schultz, who’s a longtime friend of Kasten, describes Kasten as the most fearless woman she has ever met.

“She … is able to navigate both her tremendous intellect and her heart for our community to make Dallas a better city,” Schultz said. “… Her work in the interfaith environment really helps so many people better understand us as Jews.”

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