The San Francisco Interfaith Council CC (SFIC) honored its founder and long-time URI leader Rita Semel at its 14th annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday, November 22. Ms. Semel has been a stalwart of San Francisco’s interfaith community since the 1960s, when she helped found the San Francisco Conference on Religion and Race, a precursor to the SFIC. She turned 90 on November 15.
“Thanks to Rita’s inspired vision, passion, tenacity, sacrifices and tireless efforts,” said SFIC Executive Director Michael Pappas, “the San Francisco interfaith Council has been true to its mission: celebrating our diverse faiths and spiritual traditions, bringing people together to build understanding and serving our community.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to this founder who has truly earned the title, Matriarch of Interfaith Work in San Francisco.”
Nearly 400 people came to the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco’s Japantown on Tuesday to celebrate her life and work, including San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee and U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who spoke at length about Ms. Semel’s role in making San Francisco an exemplary city for the nation.
Ms. Semel has also taken an active part in the development and growth of URI over the years, serving as Board Chair from 1996-2000, during the chartering process, and as the first chair of URI’s Global Council of Trustees from 2000-2005. She continues to serve on two URI committees and as an advisor to Executive Director Charles Gibbs, in addition to her ongoing work as Executive Vice-Chair of the SFIC and Chair of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, another URI CC.