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Focus Areas > Intergroup Relations > Newmark Institute for Human Relations                                     


Building a Diverse and Harmonious Community

MISSION STATEMENT

The Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations, at the Jewish Community Relations Council, is committed to the concept of a pluralistic society where diverse religious, racial, and ethnic groups live and work together and their differences enhance the community. It is in that setting that Jews in America have thrived. We are dedicated to advancing pluralism by organizing, supporting and promoting programs and activities that foster good human relations between people of diverse backgrounds.

The Institute celebrates, educates, cooperates, and advocates on behalf of better human relations. It centers its programs and acts to:

1. Celebrate occasions that promote diversity.
2. Educate about the differences of people of diverse
backgrounds through dialogue and other means.
3. Cooperate and network in common cause with others on
issues that support one another, as well as on issues for the common good.
4. Advocate positions and support programs that promote
civil and human rights and the inalienable dignity of the
human person, and that combat bigotry, prejudice,
discrimination, and abuses based on differences in
religion, race, ethnic background, or sexual preferences.

Advisory Board:

Chair: Rabbi Howard Kaplansky
Terry Bloomberg; David Bohm; Hilary Cedergreen; Robert A. Cohn; David Deutsch; Jack Deutsch; Bob Fox; Marilyn Fox; Leonard Frankel; Henrietta Freedman; Joel K. Goldstein; Marc D. Goldstein; Robert S. Goldstein; Thomas R. Green; Sheila Greenbaum; Gerald P. Greiman; John Kalishman; Nancy Kalishman; Eugene Kornblum; Ira Kodner, M.D.; Ken Kranzberg; J. David Levy; Mont S. Levy; Michael Litwack; Carolyn Losos; Carl Lyss, M.D.; Lynn Lyss; Tedi Macias; Felicia Malter; Marylen Mann; Marcia F. Marks; Phyllis Markus; Robert Millstone; Robert Newmark; Martin Oberman; Leonore Pepper; Maury B. Poscover; Heschel Raskas, Ph.D.; Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D; Barry Rosenberg; Donn Rubin; Jay Sarver; Joan Ellyn Silber, Ph.D.; Nancy Siwak; Richard Stein; Les Sterman; Morris Sterneck; Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman; Rabbi Susan Talve; Maria Taxman; Judge Richard B. Teitelman; Hank Webber; and Jake Zimmerman, St. Louis County Assessor;
Ex-Officio: Batya Abramson-Goldstein, JCRC Executive Director
Founders: Michael and Barbara Newmark

MOCRA Voices: Batya Abramson-Goldstein and Timothy O'Leary

http://www.slu.edu/mocra/mocra-voices/batya-abramson-goldstein-and-timothy-oleary

 

Community Members attend 2013 MLK Commemoration

On January 17, 2013 the Newmark Institute co-sponsored “Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: Continuing the Search for Civil Rights & Social Justice.” The program included a tribute to James Buford, President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. Also featured were presentations and a dialogue between Rabbi Ben Kamin, author of the civil rights books ROOM 305 and NOTHING LIKE SUNSHINE, and Ron Himes, Founder and Producing Director of the Saint Louis Black Repertory Company.

   
 James Buford and Michael Newmark                   James Buford

 

                                                  
                                       Rabbi Ben Kamin and Ron Himes

 

STANDING FOR JUSTICE 1930-1950 EXHIBIT
Documentation from the St. Louis Jewish Community Archives

The Newmark Institute joins with the Saul Brodsky Library and the Holocaust Museum in bringing this exhibition to the community. It includes documents and artifacts and illustrates the St. Louis Jewish community's response to discrimination in general and anti-Semitism in particular. Selected documentation has been drawn from the 1930's through t he 1940's and reveals the varied actions and reactions to wartime concerns, post-war discrimination, religious and political extremism and the Communist "Red Scare".

Greek Community Outreach Salon

The Advisory Board of the Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations recently created an outreach effort to the Greek community in St. Louis. A jointly planned Salon was held on December 11th at the Octagon House, hosted by Mark and Rachelle Reed, at 5:30 PM. The Octagon House was previously the residence of the Greek Consul to St. Louis. Rabbi Susan Talve, a Newmark Advisory Board member, spoke on "The beginnings of the Hellenic/Jewish relationship" and included the lighting of the Chanukah memorah. Rabbi Talve also held a discussion as to next steps in our relationship (invitation to Consuls of Greece and Israel, proposed academic conference at UMSL, trip to Greece and Israel). Below are some pictures taken that evening:

      



The Newmark Institute co-sponsored with Saint Louis University a very successful
Symposium Part 2

Religion and Politics: Election 2012 Lectures
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at SLU's Boileau Hall
Keynote Speaker

Dr. David Campbell
University of Notre Dame - Professor of Political Science
Director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy
"Religion and Civic Engagement"

A professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame and the founding director of Notre Dame’s Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy, Campbell is also the co-author (with Robert Putnam) of “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.” The book received the 2011 Woodrow Wilson Award from the American Political Science Association and the Wilbur Award from the Religious Communications Council. He also is the author of “Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape Our Civic Life.” In addition, he is the editor of “A Matter of Faith: Religion in the 2004 Presidential Election.
The event, which was free and open to the public, also featured Father Richard Quirk, Ph.D, an adjunct assistant professor in SLU's department of political science providing introductory remarks followed by a response from Julio Rubio, Ph.D.,l from the department of theological studies. A reception followed the program.

Successful Second Annual September 11th
Interfaith Memorial in Music:
An Appreciation of Religious Diversity presented by
Arts & Faith St. Louis
Sunday, September 9th @ Sheldon Concert Hall


A packed house once again witnessed this event sponsored by Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls; the Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations at the Jewish Community Relations Council; Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; and The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries with support from the Whitaker Foundation; Arts and Education Council; Regional Arts Commission; Missouri Arts Council; and many, many others. Remarks were given by Dr. Gerald Early of Washington University with the presentation of colors by the St. Louis County Police Pipes and Drums and Honor Guard of St. Louis County Police and St. Louis County Police Detective Patrick Nigh singing The Star Spangled Banner. This was folowed with performances by Christine Brewer, soprano, and Peter Martin, pianist; and Brian Owens accompanied by the Dickson String Quartet. There were also musical performances from St. Cecilia Parish Church Combined Spanish Choir; Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis; AME church Missouri Conference Choir; as well as other religious musical expressions by representatives of St. Louis faith communities, includng Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh. Following the program, attendees participated in tying ribbons on a "Unity Web" sculpture by St. Louis artist, Lindsey Scott. Below is a picture from the finale as well as of the "interactive" sculpture. Photos courtesy of Ray Marklin


                         

THE JEWISH ANNOTATED NEW TESTAMENT: DIALOGUE AND DISCUSSION WITH AMY-JILL LEVINE

Aquinas Institute of Theology, Eden Theological Seminary and the JCRC's Newmark Institute for Human Relations collaborated as dialogue partners on a lecture by Professor Amy-Jill Levine on Sunday, September 23rd at Aquinas Institute of Theology. Supporting organizations were: Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls and the Saint Louis Rabbinical Association. Professor Levine engaged the interfaith audience with her discussion combining historical-critical rigor, literary-critical sensitivity, and a frequent dash of humor.

             
Batya Abramson-Goldstein of JCRC; Father Gregory Heille                               Amy-Jill Levine
of Aquinas; Amy-Jill Levine, Dr. David Greenhaw of Eden


Keynote Address
Michael and Barbara Newmark Advisory Board

June 6, 2012

Father Paul Stark, SJ
VP Mission and Ministry - St. Louis University

“I understand that in tradition, Jewish philosophers, responding to questions with possibly lengthy answers--or just possibly lengthy responses--pledged, or were instructed, to respond standing on one foot.  We Jesuits, in similar situations, are instructed to be bright, be brief, & be seated. I’ll try to do some of those things!

I appreciate your invitation today, and the generous opportunity to share some of my thoughts.  I especially thank Barbara and Michael Newmark for their kindness to me, for their generosity and their support of events like this that bring so many community leaders together.  I am honored to be here, and to represent Saint Louis University in our growing partnership with the Jewish community and the support and friendship of the Jewish Community Relations Council. 

I’ve joked with my friends Batya Abramson-Goldstein and Rabbi Howard Kaplansky about calling our efforts to build stronger interfaith relations, the Jews and Jesuits connection. Though this is a connection also known in history, with a title like that, we might certainly be dismissed as meshugana.  I assure you, though, Jews and Jesuits is not a joke.  My remarks today won’t make much use of Yiddish, thankfully, but they will aim at showing some ways the Jewish community and the Catholic, Christian community can join together, to joke and to laugh, to break bread, and to engage in more serious and substantial conversations about faith and society.

At the JCRC annual luncheon a few weeks ago, I was moved by now past-president, Gerry Greiman and his remarks about JCRC’s commitment to pluralism and what this means for the distinction between simply being tolerant of (or perhaps even just ignoring) differences between people and the more challenging position of being respectful of people’s diverse beliefs and backgrounds, really entering into other people’s lives.  As men and women of faith, mere tolerance is a benign luxury we do not have, a passive option to which we can not subscribe, precisely because we are men & women of faith. 

Gerry made the point that only the latter, nuanced position of being respectful attempts to promote true understanding and enduring relationships between people, requiring some intentional interest, some real effort at understanding.  I believe the connection between Jews and Jesuits, now and historically, frankly, is this deeper, more enduring sort, a connection built on mutual understanding and a clear commitment to learn more about one another, to understand and to become part of each other, to pray with and for each other.  Yes, I may ask that you simply tolerate, or really just ignore, my mispronunciation of Yiddish words like meshugana, but please recognize that I’m not crazy when I ask you to explore the deeper meanings that connect us Jews and Jesuits, individually & collectively.  This morning, I’ll discuss 2 of these deeper meanings, particularly as they flow from the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the early founder of my religious order, the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits as we are popularly, or in some circles,  maybe even unpopularly known.

One of the fundamental tenets of St. Ignatius’ spiritual teachings is that all human beings, all men and women of faith, can develop and possess the freedom to find the divine in all things, in all places, in all peoples, and cultures. 

Ignatius described this First Principle, saying, everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.  Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God deepening his life in me.

This principle and purpose, to find God in all things, speaks directly to the Mission of Saint Louis University, stated simply as the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity.  Ignatius’ words also speak directly to the JCRC commitment to pluralism.  Ignatius tells us to respect (not just to tolerate) diversity, not just because diverse experiences enrich our own personal lives, but because these experiences allow us to discover the many manifestations of God, present in our world, in each of us, in all those with whom we come in contact, in all those we love, and even in those we may find difficult to love.

Pluralism, multiculturalism, diversity:  not only ideas Jesuits value, but ideas we also try to live. Not coincidentally, Jesuits, now and long ago, reflect the broad spectrum of cultural backgrounds and have worked literally in all parts of the world, now and long ago.

In the early Jesuit days, St. Francis Xavier traveled all over the world, particularly in Asia, along the Pacific rim, and in India and Japan, and he recognized the importance of learning about different cultures from within –that is, by living side-by-side with others who are different, learning from each other in our shared experiences together.

Scholars say that Xavier, as a result of what he called enculturation and his openness to--and respect of--the rich diversity around him--became fluent in more than 30 different languages–that is, he somewhat literally received the gift of tongues.  Whether Xavier’s linguistic talents were the result of a miracle or not, we can all be sure, and we know from history and tradition, that he was a great, reflective communicator in diverse cultural settings and in multiple languages.  We also know his message in all these contexts and in all those languages, to all those people, was the same: seek God & God’s goodness in all things and serve and give generously to one another.

This brings me to a deeper focus about the nature of generosity and service to humanity.

The fact that Jews and Jesuits share a common commitment to serve humankind clearly goes without saying.  What I want to make explicit, however, has less to do with the fact that Jews and Catholics engage in service–we can all see that, especially here in our St. Louis communities – and has much more to do with the rich traditions that inform our acts of generosity & charity. 

In Judaism in particular, we know of charitable acts, or tzedaka, doing right, charitable giving, seen as a moral obligation, righteousness, to help others--financially, materially, spiritually and in any way possible--from the first charity boxes in the Temple, or at home, to direct gifts, to ongoing, long-term gifts, informed by the teachings of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, Maimonides.

The beauty of Maimonides’ approach to charity has to do with the many nuanced levels, or developmental stages–the “ladder” of charity –he describes, as well as his recognition that charitable acts reflect different kinds of relationships between people.  The highest form of charity, the 8th and highest rung on the ladder, like the most enriching relationships, empowers and develops others to do things for themselves, to be self-sufficient.  This view is expressed in Scripture in Leviticus (ch 25)Strengthen the poor person so that he does not fall and become dependent on others. 

This view is also expressed in more contemporary writings, such as the influential Latin American educator & philosopher Paulo Friere :  True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes that nourish false charity.  False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the ‘rejects of life,’ to extend their trembling hands.  True generosity lies in striving so that these hands…need to be extended less & less in supplication…

My own reflections on this topic tend to follow Jesuit Fr. Pedro Arrupe, Superior General of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983, and particularly his decree, Our Mission Today: the Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice.  Fr. Arrupe is often considered our Second Ignatius because he reinvigorated Catholic social justice teachings in the Jesuits, especially in Jesuit institutions like Saint Louis University.

Arrupe spoke to Maimonides’ highest rung of charity, and Friere’s true generosity, the truest form of service, charity fully realized.

True service calls us to seek justice, not just to provide a temporary solution to others’ problems, a quick fix.  Working at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen is certainly generous, and definitely a good thing, and often helps meet the immediate needs of people who cannot provide for themselves-- but only, really, on a short-term, palliative basis.

For this to be true service, though, such acts must also be balanced by sustained, serious efforts to change the circumstances that create & prolong poverty, or the injustice in the first place.  This can be very challenging, and may often mean turning a critical eye toward ourselves and the societal structures from which we benefit, while others suffer.

True service requires that we enter into right relationships with the needy, differently than we typically do–right relationships in which we recognize our own neediness, fragility and faults, right relationships that clearly show us our common humanity, with each other and all others.  Charity, in this sense, is really more a form of solidarity, where the barriers that separate us-from-them break down and we begin to understand our lives as part of a larger, more profoundly inter-connected fabric of diverse relationships--what Christians see as the living Body of Christ, what all men & women of faith can understand as God, alive in the world.

What does all this mean for other acts of charity?  I call other charitable actions philanthropy or volunteerism, depending on the impact and motivations that underlie them, but I try to distinguish these other actions from true service, as Maimonides, Arrupe, and others, understand service.  I see these, certainly with our students, and others, as a developmental series of events, philanthropy leading to a desire for more contact with those whom our benefactions benefit, a real relationship, then a strong desire, a need, to affect change in a society that allows such indignities to our sisters and brothers.

I can’t address all of Maimonides’ 8 levels of charity, but I can share some observations about the value in his approach, using an example from Julie Salamon’s book, Rambam’s Ladder, an extended reflection on generosity and charity through the lens of Maimonides’ teachings.

In an early chapter, Ms. Salamon describes how she would typically try to avoid a panhandler, a middle-aged African-American man, who frequented a street corner in her New York neighborhood.  When their paths eventually did cross on several occasions, and he would ask for help, she would tell him about a nearby service agency that assisted the homeless.  One cold, winter day her avoidance pattern began to change; she bought him a sandwich for lunch, and learned the great leveler, his name: David.

She uses this exchange as an illustration of Maimonides’ lowest rung on the ladder: giving reluctantly, or with a frowning countenance.  That is, she shared some of her good fortune, but not very willingly, and more to avoid the continued barrage of being asked for help, than really seeking to help.

But even on this lowest rung, good things can happen.  Part of Maimonides’ wisdom is that charitable acts deepen & develop over time, just as we deepen and develop in our relationships with people, over time.

From this lowest rung of reluctant giving, an individual can move up the ladder to higher rungs.  Ms. Salamon did not learn much about David in their initial exchange, but she did learn his name. 

This simple fact–his name–made David a person to her, more than just that annoying homeless person who always asks for money, but someone with whom she could begin a relationship, and eventually she did just that.

She describes other encounters with David; for a while, she got into a routine of sharing money with him so he could buy lunch. 

Another time, she learned he needed new shoes, and gave him a pair her husband wasn’t using.  Slowly, and not without the occasional slide backwards, she began moving up the ladder to higher rungs: willfully giving (with a cheerful countenance, as Maimonides says) and giving according to others’ expressed needs-- not our judgments, just our generosity.

Ms. Salamon tells more of her experience with stories of charitable giving, from corporate donors and charitable foundations, to the response of generous individuals in profound crises, such as the 9/11 attacks--all composing a moving tale of her own climb up the ladder, her own development.

All of these stories, like Maimonides’ ladder as whole, illustrate that the complexities of charitable work can themselves be woven together in an inter-connected fabric–that rich fabric of God’s goodness and presence in the world.  And during our lives we may contribute in many different ways as part of this larger tapestry, God’s plan for us, whether we’re Jews or Jesuits, or perhaps from different religious, or other diverse backgrounds.

We can all climb Maimonides’ ladder; we can all travel our own journey from philanthropy to volunteerism to real service, true generosity.

So where does this leave us?  Certainly reflections on respect for diversity, and generosity and our shared commitments to service, suggest that the road ahead is a challenging one.  There are no quick-and-easy ways to convey the rich meanings of any of these topics I’ve introduced, particularly service.  But then nobody said that serving others is supposed to be easy, if we do it right.

Acting generously toward others, we probably all know, may not be received in the ways we expect, nor should we always expect to be thanked, but can our gifts be without strings, or attachments to us?  On this last point, St. Ignatius wrote a letter to God, a prayer for generosity, I think a fitting end for today’s discussion:

Lord, teach me to be generous.  Teach me to serve you as you deserve…to give and not to count the cost…to fight and not to heed the wounds…to toil and not to seek for rest…to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.

Thank you for your kind attention; thank you again for inviting me to join you today.  I hope whatever the challenges ahead, we can--we will, as Jews & Jesuits--continue to face them together, as a community of men and women of faith, a community united by a common purpose and commitment to value diversity & service to others, a community serving a higher purpose & seeking a greater good, but, most importantly, as a community of  friends on a common journey.        

Thank you…


The Intersection of Religion and Politics:
Some Issues for Campaign 2012
By Joel K. Goldstein

(Remarks to the Advisory Board of the Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations, November 16, 2011, St. Louis, Mo. Copyright: Joel K. Goldstein 2011)

             The presidential campaign season has certainly begun, the playoffs, if not yet the World Series, of American politics, and that reality brings with it the perennially vexing issues of the relationship between religion and politics.  I say “perennially” because the problem has long roots in American history.  It is “vexing” because some of the questions juxtapose important principles and do not lend themselves to simple solutions.  I say “issues” because the relation between religion and politics raises multiple questions.  First, there is the issue of the extent to which a candidate’s religious affiliation should be a factor in his or her candidacy, an issue which itself arises in multiple ways.  Second, there is the issue regarding the extent to which religious teachings and beliefs can properly influence political discourse.  Third, there is the use of religious issues as wedge issues.  Finally, there is the issue of the extent to which it is helpful for Jews or another religious group to associate or appear to be identified with one party or the other or to be viewed as a voting bloc.  All of these issues have arisen or will arise during the next 356 days.  This morning I want to make some preliminary comments about the first two issues—the relevance of a candidate’s religious affiliation and the role of religious teachings in public discourse.

            These are not issues the Constitution resolves, either because, in some cases, constitutional law does not speak directly to them or because they arise in a forum where the remedies, if any, are political not legal.  Yet the Constitution does contain three clauses regarding the relationship between religion and state and those clauses suggest some general principles to inform thought.  In the Oath Clause, the Constitution provides that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  And the First Amendment presents two relevant clauses.  It provides that “Congress” (and by interpretation federal and state government generally) “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”  

            Without getting into the fine points of those clauses, individually and collectively, they reflect our nation’s pluralistic foundation.   The Constitution was the act of “We the people” and, although those words once meant white male property owners, by amendment and practice it is quite clear that in 2011 the Constitution claims its legitimacy from its association with a wider and more pluralistic understanding of “We the People,” one which does not use race, gender, portfolio size, or religion to exclude.

            That commitment to religious pluralism has echoed in governmental pronouncements through the ages.  In 1797, the Senate unanimously approved the Treaty with Tripoli which proclaimed that the United States was “not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”1To be sure, there have been occasional deviations when one president or another declared America “a Christian nation.”  Unfortunately, President Harry S. Truman was among the offenders.2 

1 Treaty of  Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, June 7, 1797, http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/treaty_tripoli.html

2 See, e.g., Exchange of Messages With Pope Pius XII. August 28, 1947 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=12746&st=jesus+christ&st1=#axzz1ddBKZ8bFSee also Address Before the Council of the Organization of American States. April 12, 1953 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=9816&st=christian+nation&st1=#axzz1ddBKZ8bF (“We are Christian nations, deeply conscious that the foundation of all liberty is religious faith. “)Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast February 1, 1972 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=3597&st=christian+nation&st1=#axzz1ddBKZ8bF  (“Let us remember now that fortunately Christian nations in the world live in peace together, and we trust will in the future. Let us remember that as a Christian nation, but also as a nation that is enriched by other faiths as well, that we have a charge and a destiny. “)

More often, presidents have rejected that notion and instead embraced the idea that we are a nation of many religions.3  As President Obama put it, “I've said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is--although, as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”4  And as John Danforth has pointed out, “to call this a Christian country is to say that non-Christians are of some lesser order, not full-fledged citizens of one nation.”5  Indeed, Mario Cuomo told an audience at Notre Dame, the Christian nation description should frighten two groups—non-Christians and thinking Christians.

          The Jewish community has long recognized that, in addition to constitutional and moral justifications, enlightened self-interest should commit us to protect religious pluralism.  Our own freedom in America, as a religion and as a community, depends upon society’s embrace of religious diversity. 

            The first issue, the extent to which a candidate’s religious identification is relevant to his or her qualifications for office, presents some relatively easy and some more complicated issues.

Anti-Catholic prejudice was a factor in Al Smith’s defeat in 1928 and presented a challenge that John F. Kennedy had to overcome in 1960.  Whereas Smith tried to avoid the issue, Kennedy

3Remarks at Fudan University in Shanghai, China April 30, 1984 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=39843&st=jesus+christ&st1=#axzz1ddBKZ8bF  (Reagan) (“We're a nation of many religions. But most Americans derive their religious belief from the Bible of Moses, who delivered a people from slavery; the Bible of Jesus Christ, who told us to love thy neighbor as thyself, to do unto your neighbor as you would have him do unto you. “);Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session in Albuquerque, New Mexico September 28, 2010 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=88524&st=jesus+christ&st1=#axzz1ddBKZ8bF  (Obama: “I'm also somebody who deeply believes that the—part of the bedrock strength of this country is that it embraces people of many faiths and of no faith, that this is a country that is still predominantly Christian, but we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and that their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own. And that's part of what makes this country what it is.”)

4The President's News Conference With President Abdullah Gul of Turkey in Ankara, Turkey
April 6, 2009 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=85974&st=christian+nation&st1=#axzz1ddBKZ8bF

5 John Danforth, Faith and Politics, 218 (2006)

confronted it head on in an appeal to voters’ sense of fairness, 6most memorably in his watershed address to the Houston ministers on September 12, 1960.  Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, for 150 Protestant ministers, declared that Kennedy’s candidacy put “our culture … at stake.” (That was one occasion which led Adlai Stevenson to declare that he found Paul appealing and Peale appalling).  Kennedy’s election seemed to resolve the question of whether a Catholic could be elected.  In the next three elections, one party or the other chose a Catholic vice-presidential candidate.  Joe Lieberman, of course, became the first Jewish national candidate in 2000.  Whereas in 1937, only 46% said they would vote for a well-qualified Jew to be President, by 1969 86% said they would do so.  By 1999, the number had risen to 92%.

            Yet in 2012, as was the case in 2008, Mitt Romney’s religious identification as a Mormon has emerged as an issue as, to a lesser extent has that of Jon Huntsman.  Moreover,  bigotry against Muslims also continues, a fact which enters this discussion because between 18%  and 24% of the American people believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim according to two independent August, 2010 polls.  Interestingly, that number rose during the first 18 months of his presidency while the number who correctly identified the President as a Christian declined.7

            Political and evangelical figures have stirred the pot.  Governor Mike Huckabee asked during the 2008 Republican primary season, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”8  When evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress recently dismissed Mormonism as a “cult” in the course of

6Leo Egan, Catholicism: Unlike Smith, Kennedy Seeks to Handle Issue By Meeting It Head On, New York Times, September 18, 1960, E5.

7Growing Number of Americans Say Obama is a Muslim August 19, 2010 http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1701/poll-obama-muslim-christian-church-out-of-politics-political-leaders-religious; Time Magazine ABT/ SRBI August 16-17, 2010 Survey Final Data August  18, 2010 http://www.srbi.com/TimePoll5122-Final%20Report-2010-08-18.pdf   In the Pew Poll, those who identified Obama as a Muslim increased by 7% from March, 2009 while the number who correctly identified him as a Christian declined 14% from 48% to 34%.
8Philip Rucker, Romney, His Moromonism a Campaign Issue Again, Condemns religious Bigotry, Washington Post, October 8, 2011.

introducing Governor Rick Perry, very few of the speakers at the high profile gathering of Christian conservatives responded with public condemnation.9  Christian Evangelicals like Rev. Franklin Graham and Bob Jones III have cast doubt on Obama’s Christian identity.10

            It is no mystery why some seek to raise these issues.  The Brookings Institute found in August, 2011 that whereas 84% reported favorable views about Jews and 83% about Catholics, only 67% viewed Mormons favorably, 58% viewed Muslims favorably and 45% viewed atheists favorably.  Whereas about two-thirds of Democrats view Muslims favorably only 47% of Republicans do.  47% think that Islam is at odds with American values.11  A Washington Post-ABC News poll in June 2011, found that 20% of Republicans would be less likely to vote for a candidate who was a Mormon.12

           The Gallup Poll reported similar findings that same month.  Some 22% of Americans, 18% of Republicans and 27% of Democrats, would not vote for a Mormon.  By contrast, less than 10% would not vote for a Jew, Baptist, Catholic, woman or black although 32% would not vote for a gay or lesbian and 49% would not support an atheist.13  The anti Mormon views span the ideological spectrum

9Philip Rucker, Romney, His Mormonism a Campaign Issue Again, Condemns religious Bigotry, Washington Post, October 8, 2011.
10Bradley Blackburn, The Rev. Franklin Graham Says President Obama was 'Born a Muslim' August 20, 2010http://abcnews.go.com/WN/franklin-graham-president-obama-born-muslim-pew-poll/story?id=11446462; Jake Tapper, Bob Jones III, on Obama, Asks ‘Where Is the Evidence That He Is a Christian?’ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/11/bob-jones-iii-on-obama-asks-where-is-the-evidence-that-he-is-a-christian/

11Robert P. Jones et al, What It Means to be American: Attitudes in an Increasingly Diverse America Ten Years After 9/11
12Washington Post-ABC News Poll, June 2-5, 2011 Question 42 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/postabcpoll_060511_ATMIDNIGHT.html
13 Lydia Saad, In U.S., 22% Are Hesitant to Support a Mormon in 2012, June 20, 2011 Gallup Poll http://www.gallup.com/poll/148100/hesitant-support-mormon-2012.aspx

Whereas 21% of conservatives express an unfavorable view of Mormons, 22% of liberals do. 14

            Quite clearly, no candidate should be disqualified from public office based on his or her religion.  That conclusion follows from the words of the Oath Clause as well as basic notions of fairness.  We can hardly count ourselves a pluralistic, much less a democratic society, if we exclude candidates based on religious belief or affiliation.

            That conclusion is premised upon a commitment that a presidential candidate will act in the public interest and according to the dictates of his or her conscience, not based upon sectarian authority.  John Kennedy put it well in speaking to the Houston ministers:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President-- should he be Catholic -- how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

            I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

            JFK’s 51 year old statement stands up pretty well today.  Surely we should expect public leaders and citizens to make clear that using a candidate’s religious affiliation, either explicitly or implicitly, to denigrate his or her qualification for office, contradicts core American values.  Democrats should denounce those who would delegitimate Romney and Huntsman based on their Mormonism as

14Robert P. Jones et al, What It Means to be American: Attitudes in an Increasingly Diverse America Ten Years After 9/11

Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Lieberman recently did.15 Republicans should forcefully denounce the false claims that Obama is a Muslim, something those like Speaker John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell have refused to do.16

              That does not mean that c candidate cannot properly be questioned about the impact his or her religious views and practices might have on his conduct of office.  I certainly think it was fair to ask Senator Lieberman how he would accommodate the demands of the presidency of vice presidency to Sabbath observance, or to ask Representative Michele Bachman how her religious beliefs would affect her conduct of the presidency

                Does the “no religious test” argument count as strongly when religion is used as a factor to select a member of a minority religion to high office?  Today the Supreme Court consists of 6 Catholics and 3 Jews, none of whom were appointed due to their religions, but in our lifetimes people spoke of a Catholic seat or a Jewish seat.  In 1956, four years before arguing that his Catholicism should not be a factor in his race for the presidency, those closely associated with John Kennedy argued that he should be Adlai Stevenson’s running mate because his Catholicism would appeal to important voting blocs in swing states rich in electoral votes.  And Lieberman’s selection cast Al Gore as a trailblazer and was widely met with expressions of Jewish pride. 

15Biden Defends Romney’s Mormon Faith, November 4, 2011 Reuters http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/04/us-usa-campaign-biden-romney-idUSTRE7A371Q20111104 ("I find it preposterous that in 2011 we're debating whether or not a man is qualified or worthy of your vote based on whether or not his religion ... is a disqualifying provision…”)
16Meet the Press Transcript for February 13, 2011 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41536793/ns/meet_the_press-transcripts/ Boehner stating personal view that Obama not a Muslim but arguing that it is not his role to tell Republicans what to think) Meet the Press Transcript for August 22, 2010 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38791058/ns/meet_the_press-transcripts/ (McConnell, stating he accepts Obama’s word that he’s a Christian by refusing to denounce misinformation among Republicans).

Elie Wiesel proclaimed it “a very special day” and ADL’s Abe Foxman announced that “[f]or everything there is a time.”17

            There is, it seems to me, a clear difference.  We can fairly view the success of a member of a religious or racial minority as a reaffirmation of our understanding of, and aspirations for, America. It is quite another matter to define eligibility for office, in an exclusionary or inclusionary way, based on religion.

            A final variation on this problem is whether a candidate should properly use his or her degree of observance to appeal to voters.  Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both celebrated the fact that they were born again Christians.  In response to polls showing that many believe President Obama is a Muslim, the White House issued a statement reporting that Obama is a devout Christian who prays every day.18  One week before Governor Perry entered the presidential race he convened a Christian prayer revival in Houston. 

            Many are no doubt sincere in professing their religious faith yet it seems likely that some presidential candidates appreciate the fact that piety, or its perception, is politically rewarding. 

17Clyde Haberman, Sense of Pride Among Jews is Tempered With Concern, New York Times, August 8, 2000, A23.

18Lauren Green, Nearly 1 in 5 Americans Thinks Obama is Muslim, Survey Shows,  August 19, 2010 Fox News http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/19/nearly-americans-thinks-obama-muslim-survey-shows/ ("President Obama is a committed Christian, and his faith is an important part of his daily life….He prays every day, he seeks a small circle of Christian pastors to give him spiritual advice and counseling, he even receives a daily devotional that he uses each morning. The president's Christian faith is a part of who he is, but not a part of what the public or the media is focused on everyday….”)

           More than 60% believe it important for congressmen to have strong religious beliefs19  and an equal number would be less likely to support a candidate who did not believe in God.20

            The second issue, the propriety of introducing religious discussion in political discourse, also raises complexities.  Quite clearly, religious beliefs influence the decisions of some political leaders and of some citizens, Moreover, politicians sometimes seek to shape public thought by invoking religious themes and imagery.

            That practice has long roots in American history.  Most of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, probably the greatest speech in our nation’s history by our greatest president, invoked God in trying to come to grips with the trauma of the Civil War:21

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. …Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.



19Growing Number of Americans Say Obama is a Muslim, August 18, 2010 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Growing-Number-of-Americans-Say-Obama-is-a-Muslim.aspx#1

20Republican Candidates Stir Little Enthusiasm, June 2, 2011, 4, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life http://www.people-press.org/files/legacy-pdf/06-02-11%202012%20Campaign%20Release.pdf
21Abraham Lincoln, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=25819&st=&st1=#axzz1crWSo1Rb

If you hear something more beautiful than that today, please call me so I can hear it, too.

            It didn’t start with Lincoln—George Washington repeatedly invoked God in his First Inaugural as did Thomas Jefferson and James Madison  among others—nor has religion only been invoked in extraordinary times.  Four months after his Houston address insisting upon a secular presidency, John Kennedy acknowledged swearing his presidential oath before “Almighty God” in the first paragraph of his Inaugural and in the second proclaimed that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”  He implored both sides “to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah--to ‘undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free’" before closing by “asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”22  Martin Luther King, Jr. used the Exodus story as a metaphor for the civil rights movement and political leaders and activists copied that rhetoric.  In his great nationally televised speech on civil rights in June, 1963, President Kennedy said “[w]e are confronted primarily with a moral issue.  It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.”

            As a matter of theology and community relations, Jews have recognized the relevance of religious discussion to political discourse.  One widespread version of the Sabbath Prayer for Our Country prays that God will teach our nation’s leaders “insights of Your Torah, that they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom may forever abide in our midst.”  The call to Tikkun Olam connects social justice activity to religious admonition. The JCPA “Policy Compendium Jewish Security and the Bill of Rights” declares it “legitimate and indeed desirable for religious groups and clergy to advocate policies that would shape

22 John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=8032#axzz1crWSo1Rb

society in ways that those faith communities view as fulfilling their ideal of the ‘good society.’”23 

           Any other approach would be both unrealistic and at odds with the commitment to pluralism.  It is unrealistic to expect people to approach public issues independent of their religious values, especially for those for whom religion plays a crucial part in shaping their identity.  As former Senator and Rev. John Danforth put it, “”we don’t check our religion at the church door; we want it to apply to the rest of our lives.”24  Moreover, to exclude religious discussion from the political arena would deviate from our basic commitment to pluralism since it would effectively discriminate against those who take their values from theological rather than secular sources.

            Yet an inevitable tension remains.  Religion speaks to essential matters of right and wrong, subjects which often lend themselves to absolute conclusions which brook no compromise.  That tendency finds reinforcement for those who trace the religious teachings they espouse to a divine source.  Those who believe that God designated specific controversial contemporary conduct as right or wrong may be propelled forward by a certainty and an authority which entertains no possibility of error.  Such confidence in the infallibility of one’s position ultimately makes reasoned political discourse impossible.  For how can reasoned dialogue occur with someone who believes he or she holds a trump card from God?  Hence the dilemma. Pluralism seems to give the fundamentalist a right to air his or her religious beliefs in political conversation yet discourse in a pluralist system resists the premise of infallibility behind the fundamentalist position. 

23 JCPA Policy Compendium Jewish Security and the Bill of Rights 6.
24 Ex-Senator Danforth Discusses ‘Faith in Politics” October 5, 2006, PBS NEWSHOUR http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec06/faith_10-05.html

             Finding some accommodation between these competing impulses presents the challenge of the subject.  An attempt to reconcile them might build from a foundation in religious teachings, democratic thought and logic.  A relevant religious teaching, it seems to me, comes from the notion in Genesis of God as a common parent who created humans in God’s image.  That idea, for those religion motivates, suggests both the equality, dignity and relationship of all human beings, a belief which combats the fundamentalist’s belief that his or her view should dominate.  The democratic ideal is simply that if one seeks to participate in political discourse he or she must accept the basic principle of the equal right of others and that ideas must triumph or fall based on their success in a market of rational discourse. Invoking God cannot operate as an ace in the hole. 

             Finally, the fundamentalist approach rests upon a logical fallacy.  Even if one accepts that God has the final word, the fundamentalist errs in assuming that he or she has received and understood that word more perfectly than others.    Indeed, the very confidence in one’s superior ability to comprehend divine instruction suggests a confusion which elevates the fundamentalist above other humans.  Abraham Lincoln captured the fallacy when he said, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”  Once one abandons the mistaken equation of God’s word and the fundamentalist’s understanding it becomes possible for the religious believer to participate in a pluralistic discussion with appropriate humility.

             This formulation suggests that religious discourse can contribute to political discussion  but only if it is presented in an appropriate fashion, as human interpretations and applications of religious teachings, not as God’s own voice.  And, to echo John Kennedy’s formulation, no church or member of the clergy should equate a vote for or against a particular candidate with religious duty or eligibility for participation in religious ritual.          

      
  AN INTERFAITH MEMORIAL IN MUSIC
    
Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Jewish Light

A St. Louis Interfaith Memorial in Music commemorating the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks was held September 11, 2011 at Sheldon Concert Hall and was co-sponsored by Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls and the Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations at the Jewish Community Relations Council, with the collaboration of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, the St. Louis Symphony and many faith groups and civic and arts organizations. Read Sarah Bryan Miller's write up in The Post-Dispatch and reprinted below.


St. Louis remembers 9/11 attacks, honors victims

A MUSICAL MEMORIAL

ST. LOUIS • At five minutes to 5, a long, loose line of people stood patiently, waiting to get into the Sheldon Concert Hall. Inside the auditorium, last-minute preparations were running late. When the doors finally opened, an overflow crowd streamed in.

This was "An Interfaith Memorial in Music," sponsored by Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls and the Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations at the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the crowd was as diverse as they come. There were women in saris next to men in kippahs. Representatives of most of the arts organizations in town mingled with politicians, while clergy of every faith shook hands and exchanged greetings before settling into their seats.

The kilted St. Louis County police Pipes and Drums piped in the color guard of St. Louis firefighters, and county police Detective Patrick Nigh sang the national anthem as his colleagues stood at attention behind him.

Former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, an Episcopal priest, spoke of the shock and anger Americans felt 10 years ago, and of how Americans were united. Then soprano Christine Brewer, accompanied by pianist Peter Martin, sang the old Shaker song "Simple Gifts."

Music from every major religion was represented, from a chanted sura from the Quran and a Muslim children's song to a Christian anthem, from three Hindu mantras to a modern setting of a Hebrew blessing.

The St. Louis Chamber Chorus sang stirring, hopeful words by Walt Whitman; then four members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra played a movement from Beethoven's hopeful String Quartet Op. 74. Brewer returned for "He's Got the Whole World in His Hand," with members of the SLSO's In Unison Chorus singing in harmony as they came down the aisle to the stage.

Rabbi Howard Kaplansky gave a benediction as the stage filled with all the choirs, and Brewer led everyone in "God Bless America," a touch of Tin Pan Alley that's become a part of the nation's musical fabric.

In the lobby and out on the sidewalk afterward, members of the audience and the performers lingered and chatted, congratulating one another on their contributions, "I thought it was beautiful," said April Chilalo of Fairview Heights, "especially the prayers for peace for people in other parts of the world, and the people who are now part of America."

"Music has the power to move you," said Batya Abramson-Goldstein, executive director of the council. "And this music was glorious."

- Sarah Bryan Miller

 

Recent Newmark Institute Sponsored Events:

"Bridging Divides Through Interfaith Initiatives" held April 6, 2011 at the Anheuser-Busch Hall Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom on Washington University's Danforth Campus. A presentation and panel response featuring Rabbi Steve Gutow, President & CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the Natonal Council of Churches of Christ in the USA was held. Co-sponsored by the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics and the Newmark Institute. Over 200 people attended. The speakers stressed the importance of civility in interfaith work and general public discourse.
Read article in The Jewish Light.


Left to Right:Rabbi Steve Gutow and The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon


The Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations collaborated with Opera Theatre St. Louis on issues relating to the production of The Death of Klinghoffer as well as the development of ancillary programming.

The Death of Klinghoffer,” John Adams’ opera performed this June at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, tells the story of the hijacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro by the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1985, and the resulting murder of the American-Jewish passenger, Leon Klinghoffer.

Working with the Newmark Institute, an interfaith planning group was established by OTSTL’s General Manager, Timothy O’Leary, to explore ancillary programming. Participating in that effort were Newmark Institute Chair, Rabbi Howard Kaplansky and Institute Advisory Board members, Carolyn Losos and Lewis Chartock, and JCRC Executive Director, Batya Abramson-Goldstein.

Here are some examples of this programming:

A symposium moderated by Dr. Gerald Early, Director of the Center for Humanities at Washington University and featuring a group of interfaith panelists including Batya Abramson-Goldstein, JCRC Executive Director, Dr. David Greenhaw, President of Eden Theological Seminary, Dr. Ghazala Hayat, Past Chair of the Islamic Foundation, and Timothy O'Leary, Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ General Director. Sarah Bryan Miller in the Post-Dispatch covered this symposium. Also, please read her review of the opera.

Below is a picture from the symposium (left to right) Batya Abramson-Goldstein, Dr. David Greenhaw, Dr. Ghazala Hayat, Timothy O'Leary, and Dr. Gerald Early.

The St. Louis Jewish Light, JCRC, and JCC presented their first collaborative event, "Can We Talk", bringing the community together to discuss the opera and how art can serve as an opportunity for discussing important and controversial topics. The event was moderated by Light Editor Ellen Futterman and featured Opera Theatre of St. Louis General Manager Timothy O'Leary, Washington University Professor of Drama and Comparative Literature Henry Schvey and noted St. Louis journalist and critic Judith Newmark. Watch video.

The Sidney and Anna Frager Jewish/Muslim Teen Dialogue Group was the recipient of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs (JCPA) 2011 Program of Excellence Award at the Plenum in Washington D.C. Herbert and Marcia Marks, provided the start-up funds for the program, to be named in memory of Marcia’s late parents, Sidney and Anna Frager. Their vision and support made the program possible. This Jewish/Muslim Teen Dialogue group (fondly dubbed by its participants as “JAM: Jews and Muslims) has developed into a deeply rooted collaboration between the St. Louis JCRC and the Islamic Foundation of St. Louis. This program is building bridges of understanding between the two communities and is administered by the JCRC, through the Barbara and Michael Newmark Institute for Human Relations. For more information about JAM, click here.





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