Terry Fear is vice president/secretary of United Hebrew Congregation Terre Haute.
Even though I am a Reform Jew, I am drawn to a more orthodox morning prayer: I give thanks to You, Everlasting King, that You have returned to me my soul with compassion. Great is Your faithfulness.
Intellectually, of course, I know that does not happen. But spiritually, for me, that prayer acknowledges my daily return to God.
I believe that within the soul resides our yearning for social justice. And every morning, I can use that prayer to recommit to lending my voice, if given the opportunity, to someone whom society has made voice-less.
We are to be God’s partners in standing up for the voiceless
United Hebrew Congregation has a proud history of standing on the righteous side of social justice.
United Hebrew Congregation has a proud history of standing on the righteous side of social justice. During the 1920s, Rabbi Joseph Fink spoke against the Ku Klux Klan during a night rally held at Highland Lawn Cemetery, and Sigmund Simon confronted Klansmen he recognized as the KKK marched down Wabash Avenue.
Herbert Kaufmann died on the Normandy beaches fighting the Nazis who were determined to destroy the Jewish people. And much later, Terre Haute restaurants were desegregated, in part, because businessmen such as Walter Sommers (a Holocaust survivor and World War II veteran) insisted on being served alongside African-American guests.
How utterly appalling that still in the 21st century, neo-Nazis and white supremacists have become emboldened, as they were in Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend.
How utterly appalling that still in the 21st century, neo-Nazis and white supremacists have become emboldened, as they were in Charlottesville, Va.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president emeritus of the URJ, said “the blights of society take precedence over the mysteries of heaven.” And Americans across the country responded to this “blight on society” by participating in hundreds of rallies and vigils in opposition to antisemitism, racism and xenophobia.
Rarely in my life do two seemingly unrelated events intersect, but Sunday, even though I planned on attending the Terre Haute vigil for Charlottesville, I ended up spending the day in Champaign. I attended the memorial and unveiling service of Blanche Sudman z’’l (of blessed memory) at Mt. Hope Cemetery and then went on to Champaign’s rally for Charlottesville.
Blanche Sudman was a champion for civil rights
I wish my fellow UHC congregants could have known Blanche. What a civil rights champion! My very first social action of confronting an anti-Obama protester (who carried a poster of President Obama sporting a Hitler moustache) came from, “What would Blanche do?”
So, while the protester wrote down my license plate, I tried to shame him into visiting the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie. On Sunday, It seemed so right to protest fascism after leaving Blanche’s service.
Buried near Blanche is Holocaust survivor and civil rights advocate Rabbi Isaac Neuman, z’’l.
His autobiography’s title, The Narrow Bridge, comes from the great Hassidic Rebbe, Nachman of Bratzlav: “The whole world is a narrow bridge, and the essential thing is not to fear at all.”
Several years ago, Rabbi Neuman had autographed my copy of his book, “To Terry Fear, Never be afraid. Love, Isaac Neuman.”
Armed with my daily-renewed soul for social justice, Blanche’s memory and Rabbi Neuman’s wisdom, I’m ready.