Retired Carmel pastor earns Interfaith Ambassador of the Year honor


JR Sandadi believes there are several reasons why former Carmel Christian Church lead pastor Jerry Zehr has been an effective leader in the interfaith community for more than 35 years.

“Jerry is a great listener as well as an excellent communicator,” said Sandadi, a Carmel resident who is on the board of Carmel Interfaith Alliance. “Jerry’s leadership, commitment to dialogue and understanding, collaborative approach, innovation and empathy for people of different faiths make him an effective Interfaith Ambassador.”

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Zehr, a Carmel resident, will be honored as the 2023 Interfaith Ambassador of the Year from the Center for Interfaith Cooperation at the ninth annual Interfaith Banquet from 5 to 8 p.m. March 19 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, 1440 W. Washington St., Indianapolis. Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard is the co-chair of the event.

Zehr said he wanted Brainard to be co-chair because he was instrumental in starting the Carmel Interfaith Alliance.

The Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre will perform. Zehr’s daughter, Lori Crouter, is coming in from Baltimore and  will sing with the Good Earth Band from The Garden Community Church.

Sandadi, who is Hindu, and Zehr founded the statewide interfaith organization Indiana Multifaith Network.

“Pastor Zehr has brought together leaders of different faith communities, including Jewish, Muslim and Hindu communities, to build bridges of understanding and develop mutual respect.” Sandadi said. “He has also been actively involved in various interfaith initiatives, such as the Know Your Neighbor series. Jerry promotes understanding through dialogue and collaboration as well as facilitates honest, courageous conversations. Jerry’s commitment to promoting peace and understanding among different faith communities has made him a respected and influential figure in the interfaith community.”

Zehr, who helped create the Carmel Interfaith Alliance, started the first interfaith group in Indianapolis in 1989.

“It isn’t about me. It’s about celebrating the interfaith work that is being done in central Indiana,” Zehr said.

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