Monday, February 5, 2007

Kabbalist Vatican II, "Civil Rights" Change Agent Honored

EDITOR'S NOTE: This rabbi always knew where the revolution was going down.

Rabbi Augustin Bea and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel at a meeting arranged in 1963 by the American Jewish Committee and endorsed by Pope Paul VI.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (2nd from r.) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (4th from r.) in the Selma to Montgomery "Civil Rights" March in 1965.

Rabbi's legacy of spirituality and activism is guiding light

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald

When members of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue in Philadelphia need inspiration to tackle society's thorny problems, they look no further than a social room named for their late hero: Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

It's a testament to the power of his life and his teaching," Rabbi Jeff Sultar says. In the room, a hanging photo shows the wild-haired rabbi marching in Selma, Ala., in 1965 with Martin Luther King Jr. "It reminds us that spirituality is continuing to steer us back into the world rather than to take us out of it."

This year at the centennial of Heschel's birth, Jews and gentiles alike are remembering him as more than one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. For people of varied backgrounds, he also is an enduring role model.

For the centennial, academics will debate Heschel's significance at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., on March 11-12. Another conference is Sept. 7-9 at the Thomas Merton Center at Ballarmine University in Louisville. Yale University Press will release Volume 2 of his biography ...

Richard John Neuhaus joined with Heschel and peace activist Daniel Berrigan in 1965 to establish the influential anti-war group Clergy Concerned About Vietnam. But today Neuhaus, a Catholic priest and editor of the religion journal First Things, says Heschel's influence on him and society is most clearly felt in Jewish-Christian relations, which Heschel shaped through his role as Judaic consultant to Vatican II at a time when Heschel's Hasidic community forbade theological dialogue with Christians.

Born Jan. 11 [I'll bet], 1907, in Warsaw, Heschel was a religious "prodigy," Kaplan says. By age 4, he already knew ancient Hebrew and Aramaic; as a teen, he published his first Talmudic commentary ...

Full article:


Itzchak said...

I actually have to thank you for these first I was annoyed and amused, but they're actually quite useful. I'm sending the content along to very groups demonstrating progressive changes in RC....You're actually great at finding stories like these.

Itzchak said...

I thought you'd find this interesting...
U.S. House of Representatives
Father Robert Drinan, a former congressman from Massachusetts.

Father Drinan befriended Jews,
and empowered them politically

February 5, 2007

NEWTON, Mass., Feb. 5 (JTA) — I said a Jewish prayer for a Roman Catholic priest.

My congregation asked those who wanted to say the Mi Sheberach, the prayer for healing, to stand and name whoever needed health restored. When my time came, I quietly said, “Robert Drinan.”

The Jesuit and former congressman lay in a Washington hospital with pneumonia and a failing heart. Father Drinan died the next day, Jan. 28. He was 86.

The world lost a towering moral force, and Jews specifically lost one of the most important friends they ever had in the U.S. Congress.

In his last term in office — Father Drinan represented a Massachusetts district from 1971 to 1981 — I used to get off the Metro on Capitol Hill knowing that I was on my way to help him work “for the greater glory of God.” That was the Jesuit motto. It was heady to be a 21-year-old legislative assistant for a prominent congressman, and it was humbling to be the servant of a humble servant of God.

I was so used to seeing Father Drinan wearing his black suit and shirt and white collar that I sometimes forgot he was a priest. Then I’d be jarred back, such as the time I read his open letter in the Washington Post to Natan Sharansky. Now an Israeli public figure, Sharansky was then an imprisoned refusenik in the Soviet Union.

“A year ago at the conclusion of your trial you prayed, ‘Next Year in Jerusalem,’ ” Father Drinan wrote. “Please continue to pray until you are answered.”

I paused from my Capitol Hill duties to ponder the power of prayer.

Father Drinan was a preacher who wasn’t preachy. He didn’t wear his religion on his sleeve; he didn’t need to: He wore his clerical collar, and saved his sleeve for liberalism. Father Drinan did more than talk about ecumenism, he lived it. He embodied interfaith dialogue.

Many voters, both Jewish and Catholic, would say, “If he only took off that darned collar, I’d vote for him.” But it wasn’t merely a strip of white: That collar was a bridge between the Jewish and Christian communities, even long after he had left Congress. Father Drinan said Mass for Nancy Pelosi, who was preparing to be sworn in as House speaker, and he said Kaddish in a Jewish house of mourning.

Among the books Father Drinan authored was “Honor the Promise: America’s Commitment to Israel.” He co-founded the National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry and was a trustee of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Father Drinan was a natural, frequent and welcome speaker in synagogues and before Jewish groups.

By the end of his decade in Congress, the overwhelming response of the Jews he represented — he was also our delegate to the Christian world — was adulation.

It would be cynical and incorrect to say that Father Drinan took the lead in Jewish causes because of his numerous Jewish constituents, especially in Newton and Brookline. His affinity for Jews and Israel began years before elective politics, and lasted until he died.

Betty Taymor, a Democratic activist, relates that in Father Drinan’s first campaign in 1970, a Russian immigrant in a particularly Jewish ward in Newton asked him what the letters “S.J.” after his name meant. They stand for Society of Jesus, designating Father Drinan as a Jesuit.

But Father Drinan answered in a flash, “Somewhat Jewish.”

His “somewhat Jewishness” transformed Jewish politics in Massachusetts. Father Drinan was a Jewish surrogate who paved the way for Barney Frank, his Jewish successor, whom he endorsed.

More important, Father Drinan had made Jews feel more comfortable about their political power in Massachusetts. Frank is only the second Jewish congressman ever in Massachusetts, and the first elected since 1886.

I think that in 1980, when Frank first ran, voters in the district had an assumption that was unexpressed and possibly unrecognized: If we can elect a priest, we can elect a Jew.

Last Saturday, I placed dirt and a small stone on Father Drinan’s polished wooden casket and watched as it was settled into the earth.

A little more than a week before, I had conferred with my rabbi about saying the Mi Sheberach for Father Drinan. But I feel safe, without conferring, about what I’m about to do: add two letters to the name of Robert F. Drinan, S.J,. z”l. Zichronot l’vracha. May his memory be a blessing.

Itzchak said...

Is there no one else reading this stuff? Except for me, it's zero comments everywhere...

Anonymous said...

No one wants to read your comments anymore. We know you're just here to pick a fight.

Itzchak said...

Me...pick a fight...this blog is one big fight picker....I'm just responding....

Anonymous said...

You're responding?! So? No one else talks about these things, according to our traditional teachings. Someone has got to do it. That's something you'll never understand.

Itzchak said...

Which traditional teachings?