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Program to focus on bond between Blacks and Jews

Program to focus on bond between Blacks and Jews

Jewish Press May 24, 2021

FacebookTwitterEmailMessengerCopy LinkSMSShare The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., center and Rabbi Abraham Heschel, second from right, march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on March 21, 1965 Photo: Susan Heschel A national virtual event, launched from Tampa and titled “Standing Together for Racial Unity,” will highlight the incredible friendship and alliance of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – immortalized by their iconic photo, side-by-side, at the 1965 peace march in Selma, Alabama.

Dr. Susannah Heschel, Rabbi Heschel’s daughter, and Rabbi Capers Funnye Jr., chief rabbi of the International Israelite Board of Rabbis, will discuss how this legacy has impacted Black-Jewish relations today and into the future.

Cal Jackson, executive director of corporate partnerships at Courageous Conversations and a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Practitioner, will moderate. The free program will be held on Tuesday, June 15 from 7-8:30 p.m. on Zoom and hopes to draw a national audience. The event will be hosted by Congregation Rodeph Sholom of Tampa and the newly formed organization Connecting Cultures for Peace. To register, visit Connecting Cultures was recently started in the Bay area, but includes organizers from California and Maryland as well. It was formed to address issues related to social justice and antisemitism. The grassroots organization is national and global in scope and will begin by creating partnerships between communities of color and the Jewish community at large. Its aim is to establish a safe place where open dialog can begin a healing process and where relationships of trust and respect can be established. The overarching goal is to build community and communication where everyone can belong and succeed.

Connecting Cultures recognizes the important relationship that existed between Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dr. Martin Luther King, as they worked together to fight hatred and bigotry. Their heartfelt mantra to “Save the Soul of America” rings true today. Among those forming Connecting Cultures is Michele Norris, a Tampa community leader and Jew of color; Iris Sandow, an advocate for the disabled; Audrey Weisberg of the International Student Liaison; Cal Jackson; Charlotte Israel and Dr. Patricia Hauser, pastors of multicultural, non-denominational organizations, and Jane West Walsh, who is a Jewish and adult educator.

After leading successful virtual programs in 2020, it was clear to the founders that respect, as well as honest dialogue, go a long way toward building an inclusive and flourishing community. The organization plans future programs in keeping with their mission to initiate positive change and heal our communities.

Guest speakers Dr. Susannah Heschel is the Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor and chair of the Jewish Studies program at Dartmouth College. She is the author of several books on German Jewish history and has published more than 100 scholarly articles. As the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, she has edited two volumes of his essays, supervised the translation of his work into languages around the world, and represents him at conferences and lectures, particularly at gatherings of Civil Rights leaders.

In addition to his duties as chief rabbi of the International Israelite Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Funnye, Jr. is rabbi and spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago and a long-time member of the Chicago Board of Rabbis. He is also on the board of Kulanu, which supports isolated, emerging, and returning Jewish communities around the globe.

Perhaps he is best known as the rabbi-cousin of former First Lady Michelle Obama. He earned a bachelor of arts in Hebrew Literature and rabbinic ordination from the Israelite Board of Rabbis, Inc., Queens, NY. He also earned a bachelor of arts degree in Jewish Studies and master’s degree in Human Service Administration from Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, Chicago.

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