Steve Spreitzer is the President and CEO of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion. He has, he says, the biggest interfaith rolodex in southeast Michigan.
Spreitzer received his Masters in Social Work at Michigan State University, where he studied the role of the faith community in advancing social justice. He has worked in community mental health, criminal justice ministry and legislative advocacy. Prior to his work with the Roundtable, he spent nearly twenty years working for the Roman Catholic Church in campus and parish ministry and diocesan service. During this time he worked in youth ministry, parish social services, criminal justice ministry, legislative advocacy and interfaith relations.
Next month, he will receive the Interfaith Leadership Award at our annual dinner for his many years of dedicated interfaith work.
He is humble about the honor, saying “Its weird to be honored by people I want to honor. IFLC has done a really good job of growing the work that was done for 65 years by the Roundtable. I must refer someone every day to Bob (Bruttell).”
Spreitzer grew up in Livonia, which he describes as then being racially and religiously homogeneous. He attended Catholic school. His father was, he says, “one of those bigots who didn’t like anyone who was different.” But Spreitzer was exposed to African American nuns and a Jewish lay teacher at the school.
Then, in the mid-eighties, Spreitzer was serving as a prison chaplain for the archdiocese when he met a rabbi from Grand Rapids. “It was the novelty of it. It was like a new fragrance or aroma. That’s cool.”
Quoting Gandi, he says “Love is looking in the mirror and seeing the face of the other.”
An energetic and enthusiastic speaker, he fast forwards his story to a former neighbor, with whom he smoked cigars. The neighbor hated Muslims, and Spreitzer really wanted to introduce him to someone who was Muslim.
“Relationship is the antidote,” says Spreitzer. Healing and peace come “once you meet someone and your souls connect.”
There was an issue with sobriety and firearms, so that meeting never quite came off, but, says Spreitzer, “he was always my pulse on what rednecks are thinking these days.”
Spreitzer has been working to foster dialogue, relationships and conciliation as Interim President and CEO of the MRDI from August 2013 until July 2014, Director of Programs from 2008 to 2013. He managed the Roundtable’s Interfaith efforts from 1996 to 2008 and Walk2gether Michigan from 2004 to 2008. And he has been recognized by the World Sabbath for Religious Reconciliation, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, the Catholic Youth Organization and the Hindu American Foundation.
“This interfaith stuff is an addiction,” he says. “You just get a good feeling about it.”