Does the religious community, broadly conceived, have anything to say to the moment in which we find ourselves as Americans? I believe it does; in fact, it is well on the way to doing so through American Values Religious Voices (www.valuesandvoices.com). My intent is that those who read this blog become aware of this significant activity. You may even find you want to share it with others.
The Values and Voices website describes the initiation of the project in this way.
“In the days following the election, Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Associate Professor of Bible at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, came up with the idea of scholars sending a letter a day to our newly elected officials for the first 100 days of the new presidential term.
“Words and actions during and after the election seemed to call into question fundamental values that have long defined our nation. Our divided country greeted the election results with mixed emotions: disappointment and anxiety felt by some, contrasting with excitement and promise experienced by others. Either way, at this time of transition many people appear to long for guidance, inspiration, and a reaffirmation of what it means to be an American.
“Those observations sparked the idea that at this particular moment in our nation’s history, our elected officials and our fellow citizens might welcome the insights of scholars of religious texts and teachings, individuals with an important voice to contribute to our national discourse.”
Each of us will respond to this letter-writing project in our own way. Here is what I said to Andrea Weiss about my own perspective.
“I have a photo taken in the late 1930s when I was a pre-schooler growing up near Pittsburgh, PA. It shows me holding the hand of the man sitting beside me whom I knew as “Uncle Dave,” a close family friend. He was David Glick, a Pittsburgh lawyer. I also have some forty post cards he sent to my parents or to me and my brother: in 1936 and 1937 they are from Germany and elsewhere in Europe, and in 1939 they are from cities in South America. During the former years he crisscrossed Germany on behalf of the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to assist German Jews in leaving the country (each night he hung his umbrella on the door to his hotel room so that he would be awake if the Gestapo came for him). In 1939, he visited every South American country to assess the needs of those who had resettled. [When David Glick died in 1964, his obituary said in summary, ‘…as an emissary to Nazi Germany (he) played an important role in the migration and settlement of 90,000 Jews,…’]
“In writing you today I feel as if I am, again after these many years, “holding the hand” of someone who has responded to a challenge that may demand much of us.”
Hugh Nevin is one of three retired members of Presbytery living at the Beverwyck senior community near Albany. In his active years he was a campus minister on Long Island, at the state level in New York, and in the Capital District (Union and UAlbany). He was also twice an installed pastor, an interim in eight Capital District churches, and pulpit supply in more than he cares to count at this point.