Honoring Hero of Struggles for Civil Rights & Peace

Honoring Hero of Struggles for Civil Rights & Peace

Click above to read message from Martin Luther King (Aug. ’64)

On Monday, May 19, Partners for Progressive Israel hosted a lively and heartfelt tribute dinner for one of our founders and past presidents, Rabbi Israel “Si” Dresner, at Manhattan’s Sangria 46.  Among the many contributors to the tribute journal, honoring Si on the occasion of his 85th birthday, were Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Meretz party chair Zehava Galon, and our board chair Theodore Bikel. Among others sending greetings was the great veteran civil rights leader, Congressman John Lewis.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs on Monday night

The speakers paying tribute in person that evening were outstanding for their mix of erudition and good humor.  These included: a davar Torah from Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, a discourse on the present and future makeup of American Jewry by sociologist Prof. Steven M. Cohen, and personal reflections on Si from another fellow former president, Larry Lerner, and from Rabbi Ari Rosenberg, who now presides at Temple Sha’arey Shalom where Si had served as rabbi back in the 1960s.

Professor Steven M. Cohen on Monday night

Si Dresner is perhaps best known nationally for his courageous work during the civil rights movement’s heyday as a freedom rider and a marcher for justice who in fact shared jail time with Rev. Martin Luther King for his efforts.  The two were friends and we noted on this blog, his meeting with Pres. and Mrs. Barack Obama last year, to honor him specifically for this commitment.  Larry Lerner reminisced about a shared mission to the Soviet Union in the late 1980s to contact Jewish refuseniks, while Rabbi Rosenberg recalled his more recent time with Si on the West Bank, where he stood up to militant settlers attempting to disrupt the harvesting of Palestinian olives.  Pursuing the Biblical Prophetic vision for peace and justice has truly been Si Dresner’s calling in life.

Rabbi Israel ‘Si’ Dresner on Monday night
By | 2014-05-23T15:43:00-04:00 May 23rd, 2014|Blog|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Shirley Rausher May 27, 2014 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    This Blog response adds to an earlier entry on Shulamit Aloni, and was sparked by this event for Si.

    Some years ago I joined Partners for Progressive Israel (Meretz USA at that time) in my first Symposium to Israel and Ramallah in the West Bank, and met with Shulamit Aloni among others informally over dinner with the group. They were impressive, direct in discussing concerns for Israel and its relationship to the Arab population within its borders, Gaza and the West Bank. Aloni urged basic rights for all people within these territories. Our meetings and visits included political and journalistic notables, experiences such as a guided tour of Jerusalem, meetings in Ramallah, and others too numerous to recount in this space. My reflection at the time was the similarity to the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements in the USA, both of which I had been intricately involved.

    I later attended another PPI Symposium which was broadened to include groups who were trying to make a difference, small and large NGOs, as well visits to a check-point and Hebron. Activists were being effective but discouraged by the administration. There appeared to be a groundswell of individuals and groups recognizing the nature and extent of the direction in which Israel was departing from its roots as a democratic country.

    Let’s hope that Shula’s integrity and activism will carry on through the efforts of numerous others, in hopes that we will see movement towards meaningful peace on the next Partners Symposium in October 2014. At this recent Partners event to celebrate the 85th Birthday of Rabbi Si Dresner, an activist his entire life, first with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement and subsequently in Middle East peaceful resolution for two states, Israel and Palestine, it was recognized that persistence and non-violent activism will hopefully succeed once more. Let us hope and work for it.

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