Chronicling the Rabbi Whose Life Epitomized Tikkun Olam
Confronting Hate: The Untold Story of the Rabbi Who Stood Up for Human Rights, Racial Justice, and Religious Reconciliation By Deborah Hart Strober and Gerald Strober (Skyhorse Publishing, 394 pp. $29.99)
Interfaith dialogue and human rights activism are now regular parts of many rabbis’ work—and, as this new biography demonstrates, Rabbi Marc Tannenbaum helped pioneer the connection.
Tannenbaum was a prominent figure in interfaith relations from the 1960s through the 1980s. He played an active role leading up to the 1965 Vatican II statement of Nostra Aetate, which repudiated centuries of Catholic teaching holding Jews responsible for the death of Jesus. He continued his interfaith work for the rest of his life. Tannenbaum, a longtime director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, was also friendly with the Rev. Billy Graham, their relationship heralding today’s close Jewish-evangelical ties.
Just as important, Tannenbaum became involved in the civil rights movement, helping to connect Martin Luther King Jr. with one of his own teachers, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Nor did he confine his social justice efforts to the United States—Tannenbaum mobilized support for Soviet Jews and was active in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, among other causes. The introduction to Confronting Hate vividly portrays Tannenbaum on a 1978 humanitarian mission to help the Vietnamese boat people. As the authors explain, Tannenbaum was a “vigorous proponent of the downtrodden throughout the world.”
When it comes to chronicling the life of a rabbi whose public life epitomized tikkun olam, this book hits the mark.
Peter Ephross edited a collection of oral histories, Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words.