New York City
March 2003

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg & Professor Ernestine Schlant Bradley Speak at Leo Baeck Center
by Alexandra Shimo-Barry

The German-born professor writes about anti-Semitism. The Orthodox rabbi downplays its relevance to Jewish identity. They’re very different, but they say they learn from their differences.

Rabbi Hertzberg is the author of the newly published A Jew in America. (Harper Collins, 2002.) Ordained an Orthodox and Conservative Rabbi, and born of Polish parents, he is known for his work as a peace activist, policy maker, Jewish scholar, and author. He campaigned for a separate Palestinian state after 1967 War and fought for civil rights in the 1960s.

He met Professor Ernestine Schlant Bradley in 1978. Bradley’s husband, Bill Bradley, a former NBA star was just starting his political career. The rabbi shared many of Bill Bradley’s political convictions and helped him win his Senate seat. But it was Schlant, as she is professionally known, who shared his passion for Jewish literature and culture, which fostered their close friendship.

“We decided we needed further opportunities to meet,” Schlant said. “And we haven’t stopped ever since.”

They learn from each other’s scholarship, writings and talks, Schlant said. “[Hertzberg] is a man who never minces words,” she added. “He is a voice of moral conscience. He knows what he knows and he stands up and defends it, and I find that most admirable.”

Schlant isn’t Jewish, but is widely known for her research on anti-Semitism in postwar German and Austrian literature. In her latest book, Schlant examines why post-war German authors have failed to reflect on the genocide that took place during World War II.

Hertzberg’s latest book also addresses anti-Semitism, but from a very different perspective. He writes about the anti-Semitism he experienced as a boy—some Jewish practices were discouraged at his mainly Christian school. But Hertzberg is keen to move beyond these injustices, and said others should too. Jewish identity is much richer than just anti-anti-Semitism, Herzberg said. Jews should remember this, Hertzberg said, move forward and embrace their rich cultural inheritance. He underscored the great need for us all to be kinder and gentler to each other.#

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