(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – An appearance by Rabbi Israel Dresner, who was a Freedom Rider with the Rev. Martin Luther King, and a co-presentation by Rev. Natalie Shiras, pastor of the Church on the Hill Congregational church in Lenox and Rabbi Josh Beindel, spiritual leader of Temple Anshe Amunim, are included in the “Shabbat of Freedom” at Temple Anshe Amunim, Friday and Saturday, March 30-31, 2012. All of these events are open to the public.
Rabbi Dresner, who was arrested four times in the segregated South in the 1960s while campaigning for civil rights, will be present for both Saturday Torah Study and services. At 1p.m. Saturday, he will speak on his civil rights experiences.
Known as “the most arrested rabbi in America” for his efforts standing up against segregation as a Freedom Rider, Rabbi Dresner was serving at a Reform temple in Springfield, N.J., in 1961, when he agreed to take part in the first interfaith freedom ride. Predecessors in the civil rights movement had been beaten, and the rabbi admitted in an interview a year ago that “we were really scared. You could feel the hatred and tension” among the locals who opposed their movement.
In Albany, Ga., Rabbi Dresner was present with Reverend King and others in a local civil rights leader’s home when 100 anti-integrationists surrounded the place. “I was really scared that they were going to torch the house,” he once told another interviewer, but “Doctor King was cool as a cucumber. He’d obviously gone through this a hundred times already.”
The rabbi, who in his 83 years has met several national and world figures, still considers King “the greatest single person I have ever met.”
Rev. Shiras will join Rabbi Breindel in evening services on Friday. They will be conducting a joint service emphasizing “Freedom and Justice in Judaism and Christianity.” Members of both congregations will be in attendance.
The Friday evening events begin at 4:45 p.m., with a reception before the service which follows at 5:30.
In addition to his talk on Saturday afternoon, Rabbi Dresner will lead the regular Saturday morning session of Torah study that begins at 9:30 a.m. He will also participate in services at 10:45.