I am tickled and pleased to report that the Forward (the nearest there is to a national Jewish weekly in the US) this past week (November 11, 2005) listed me as one of the "Forward 50" (50 American Jews who are moving the community and the world forward, I guess; at least I hope).
Their summary of my life (close enough, but not wholly accurate; I did not co-found SDS) is as follows:
November 11, 2005
THE PUBLIC SQUARE
Most major national Jewish organizations came out in support of the Iraq war three years ago, and have been keeping their heads down ever since. Their silence amplified the voice of veteran anti-war activist Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a leader of the Jewish Renewal movement and a long-time icon of the American left.
A founder of the 1960s-era Students for a Democratic Society, Waskow turned his activism toward the Jewish community early on; in recent years he's been running the Philadelphia-based Shalom Center, which preaches his unique mix of environmentalism, spirituality and economic rights.
This past September, Waskow helped mobilize participants in the mass anti-war rally in Washington, D.C., but faced a dilemma when it was announced that part of the rally would be organized by the anti-Israel group International Answer.
The 71-year-old Waskow responded by organizing a pro-peace Shabbat morning service at a downtown Washington synagogue during the Answer portion of the rally, then leading Jewish marchers toward the White House, where he was arrested. Last month, citing polling data which shows that most American Jews oppose the war, Waskow launched a new campaign, attempting to influence the Reform movement, America's largest Jewish movement, to adopt an official position opposing the war.
I am pleased to be named one of the Forward 50, especially since my grandparents -- avid Forverts readers –must be happily schnorkeling – that's a Baltimore fusion of snorting and and chuckling -- from their graves.
Izzy Stone – who certainly stands alongside Abe Cahan as one of the great radical American Jewish journalists – told me once that that just by staying alive long enough, not changing his tune at all, he had graduated in the public mind from being a "treasonable troublemaker" to being a "respected independent voice" and then – he laughed -- to sainthood. I can do without the third level, but it's nice to dance between the first two. So – thank you.
One correction I need to make. I was among the founders of IPS, the Institute for Policy Studies, but not among the founders of SDS. When SDS began, I was about twelve years too old to be in that cadre. But I did and do profoundly respect those who were, like Al Haber, Tom Hayden, Todd Gitlin, Casey Hayden, and Carol Cohen McEldowney, aleha hashalom. It was she who persuaded me to join SDS, after getting arrested for the first time in an SDS-led sit-in (1963) to my home-town segregated amusement park, Gwynn Oak in Baltimore. (Baltimore County Executive Spiro Agnew ordered our arrests.)
By now it's about 25 arrests. [The White House arrest led to my conviction yesterday -- Nov. 17, 2005]. Maybe I should honor your naming by aiming for 50.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow