Minutes of Monthly Meeting
March 8, 1998
Location: Alumni Hall, University of Dayton
Meeting Topic: Parables in Black and White
Speaker: Dave Schwartz
Host: Jerry and Lorraine Kotler
PRESENT: Connie Breen, Co-chair; Arthur Auster, Judy Auster, Bert Buby, Phyllis Duckwall, Shirley Flacks, Erika Garfunkel, Felix Garfunkel, Agnes Hannahs, Bette Jasko, Bob Jasko, John (Jack) Kelley, Jerry Kotler, Lorraine Kotler, John Magee, Cecilia Moore, Eileen Moorman, Anna Pyhel, Bill Rain, Donald Ramsey, Ken Rosenzweig, Harold Rubenstein, Sophie Rubenstein, Lou Ryterband, David Schwartz, Gilda Schwartz, William Youngkin.
Connie Breen called the meeting to order at about 8:00 PM. Jerry delivered the invocation which took the form of a song. Before singing, he explained that the notion of the soul permeates all religions. Jerry found something magnificent in the first few words of Psalm No 104, not only the acknowledgment that the soul exists but that a person must command his soul to bless God. It is a rich psalm. Jerry sang these words with great eloquence and emotion.
Erica introduced Anna Pyhel who is visiting Dayton from Papenburg, Germany. Papenburg is the town where Erica was born. Erica met Anna on a trip back to Germany in 1989 with her husband Felix.
Father Kelley passed around the newsletter of the Rockaway Catholic-Jewish Council. Father Kelley used to live in Rockaway, New York, and was active in this Council. One project of the Council is the 15th Annual Brotherhood Celebration. Jack recommended some books to the group, including God, a Biography. Eileen stated that a book listed in last month's minutes, The Harlot by the Side of the Road, is now available in the Centerville Library.
Ken then introduced Dr. Cecelia Moore who is the Dialogue's scheduled speaker for the September meeting. He also announced the conclusion of the dues collection period. Ken announced the upcoming retreat and asked those who intend to come to mail a check to him as soon as possible (see the Retreat Announcement later in these minutes). Harold volunteered to telephone the Dialogue members to tell them about the Retreat and sign them up for it. Connie discussed the plans for the retreat and told the group about the retreat facilitator, Anna Marie Swank. Bert said Anna Marie is the area expert on Mary Magdalene. She is an excellent teacher. Shirley met her and found her to be delightful. Ken announced the Sinclair Holocaust Remembrance program which is also listed later in these minutes.
Rev. Bill Youngkin (Pastor of David's Church) shared that Renate Frydman (speaker at the November, 1997 Dialogue meeting on Holocaust education) had visited his church and delivered a very effective presentation. Lorraine complimented Arthur for getting Chiune Sugihara as a speaker in the Sinclair Holocaust Remembrance Program. Arthur is the Co-chair of the Sinclair Holocaust Remembrance Program. Chiune Sugihara's father was a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania in 1940. He disobeyed his government's orders and issued 6,200 visas to refugee Jews which saved their lives. Since the German armies were marching east, these Jews would have been captured and killed by the Nazis. Rabbi Parnes, an Orthodox rabbi who is Rabbi of Shomrei Emunah Synagogue in Dayton, studied at a Yeshiva (traditional Jewish school) whose students and teachers were saved by Sugihara. Arthur noted the atmosphere of militarism and homage to the Japanese Emperor that was characteristic of Japan in 1940. Disobedience was not tolerated. The moral message of the Sugihara story is that one person can make a difference.
Connie called on Eileen to introduce the speaker. Eileen introduced David Schwartz and his wife Gilda. Dave has a Masters degree in philosophy from Miami University. He is the President of an organization in Cincinnati called Seed House, which works for peace and justice. Dave will speak about a book co-authored with a woman in California. Eileen met Dave at a dialogue workshop at St. Charles Parish, and was impressed with his experience in dialogue.
Dave Schwartz's Presentation
Dave began his presentation by talking about coming to Dayton with Lou Vera to hear a talk by Suzanna Heschel (Sanders Judaic Studies Symposium). At that event, Dave met Jerry who showed his hospitality by insisting on paying for dinner. Jerry critiqued a book for Dave, Karen Armstong's book, A History of God.
The book that Dave co-authored with the Rev. Jacqualine (Jackie) Winston is entitled Parables in Black and White. It is a powerful book. Harper Collins was due to publish it before that company declared bankruptcy. Another publisher is being sought. Jackie, an African American woman from California, is an evangelical minister. Jackie and Dave struck up a friendship while together at a conference. They talked about writing a book together and, after the conference, Dave sent her a proposed outline of the book. Two days later, Jackie sent Dave a chapter. In her chapters, Jackie told about her feelings about first getting to know White people. Jackie also told about Jim Crow laws and the feeling she and many other African Americans have of being ignored. For every "Hymietown" remark, there is a "Niggertown" remark. The more there is conversation between different groups and depth of that conversation, the more that misunderstanding will be reduced. Dave and Jackie wrote separate chapters until the end of the book where they collaborated on a chapter. Jackie and Dave's chapters have noticeably distinctive styles. The chapter they collaborated on tells about when they first met each other. It contemplates their shared tribal heritage's. It suggests that both Jewish and African American culture contribute to our common future. It also suggests that we not abandon our distinctiveness, but rather develop new options. In the essentials, our society needs unity, but in nonessential areas, differences are to be treasured.
Harmony can be achieved by resisting stereotypic responses to modern life. We must acknowledge that stories communicate our unique cultures. We must attempt to deal with the universal themes in a particular tradition. Communicating with one another involves developing new images of what we each desire, i.e., to live lives of wisdom, joy, and creativity. We must tell our stories to communicate for our common future. We need a public forum for our stories. In the new millennium, Jews and Blacks must be touched by each other. When we appreciate one another, the Holy Spirit is enhanced. When we cherish and celebrate one another, there is God. The Divine Presence says, "I have ended oppressive relationships. When will you?"
The formal presentation ended at about 9 PM. Eileen complimented Dave by saying, "you helped bring us into the future." Dave said he and Gilda are planning to go to California to visit Jackie. Jackie is head of Living Springs Ministry. Upon being asked by Ken, Dave replied that Jackie is primarily involved with mixed (African American and White) churches. Arthur noted that Dave's image of the millennium sounds like the Jewish messianic vision, one of peace and justice.
Harold said he is disturbed by the lack of practical issues in Dave's presentation. Dave noted that liberals often get into trouble because they just throw money at problems without thinking them through. Lorraine defended Dave by saying that attitudes and goals are important before you get to specifics. Ken recalled his experience with Black-Jewish Dialogue in the Dayton area in prior years. That dialogue broke up as a result of ill feeling and recriminations. Lorraine acknowledged some of the problems of misunderstanding that exist between African Americans and Jews. Harold pointed out that Jews and African Americans have different agendas.
Eileen suggested that the discussion return to Dave's book. Eileen said that a parable is necessary first to build consensus before practical matters are addressed. Bert noted that his teacher in Switzerland taught about what is a good parable. Shirley asked if anyone saw the Oprah Winfrey program on the wedding. It highlighted the prejudice of lighter African Americans toward darker African Americans. Shirley noted similar experiences; people who would "compliment" her for not looking Jewish. Harold said that both groups have suffered from discrimination. Arthur noted that Jews run the spectrum from Black to White. Jack asked if Cecelia would make a comment. Cecilia said she liked the focus of Dave's book. She noted that story telling is very important in both groups for maintaining cultural identity. Lorraine observed that at one time she worked in an almost totally African American environment and had problems. She felt very strange until she was able to get to know people. Then everything was fine. At one time, she heard anti-Semitic jokes being told, and she immediately told the people telling them that she was Jewish. At another time, she was asked whether there were any "poor" Jews. Lorraine noted that Professor Julius Lester, an African American convert to Judaism, was appalled by the anti-Semitism in an African American rally which had Stokely Carmichael as a speaker. Erica disagreed with Lorraine's view of African American anti-Semitism. She said there is a socio-economic reason for this anti-Semitic feeling. Erica protested that misinformation about other groups does not exist only in the African American community. That is why we need to talk to each other. Erica maintained that Jews and Christians (both Black and White) should be engaged in the dialogue process.
The meeting adjourned at 9:30 PM.