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Steve Hunegs

Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council

An Interview with University of Minn. Professor Bruno Chaouat

In the aftermath of the murders in Paris this past January, I interviewed Bruno Chaouat, Professor and Chair of the Department of French and Italian at the University of Minnesota, about the impact of the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher deli terrorist attacks in France.

In the interview, Professor Chaouat also provides an overview of the French Jewish community and its history, demography, and traditions.

In honor of Bastille Day yesterday and the tradition of the friendship between the United States and France, America’s oldest ally, we pause to consider the future of democracy, the free expression of ideas, and civility in a world where these values are not always shared.

The interview has been broken up into four parts: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

Remembering Charleston

Great community thanks to the Reverend Nazim B. Fakir for organizing the Interfaith Prayer Vigil for the martyred of Charleston, on June 24, 2015, at St. Peter’s African Methodist Episcopal Church. Great community thanks also the Minnesota Council of Churches and Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin for its efforts in organizing the service.  The evening was about prayer; singing together (sacred hymns of the Church – “Lift Every Voice and Sing” – and sacred music of Civil Rights – “We Shall Overcome”); reflection; the road ahead; and honoring the memory of the “Charleston 9”:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Cynthia Graham Hurd
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Tywanza Sanders
Susie Jackson
Ethel Lance
Myra Thompson
Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor
Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr.

The Reverend William Jackson read from the Jewish canon, the Qur'an, and the Gospels.  The unifying messages were: commonality of peoples; the need to overcome evil towards redemption; and trust in God.  Or, as the cover of the written program proclaimed: “We Are One.”

Rev. Chemberlin reminded all those attending – and the sanctuary was filled with people of many different religions – they were present because “our hearts and spirit are on fire.”  She preached balancing mercy and justice: “there is forgiveness but not without accountability.”

Salman Mazhar – beautifully and directly – captured an essence of the vigil: “We must defeat the ideology of hate.”

The Reverend LaTonya A. Fakir centered our attention on prayer and action for the elimination of the “scourge of racism and white supremacy.”

Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker, representing the Minnesota Rabbinical Association, directed us to channel our energies to the passage of the Voting Rights Act Amendments of 2015 as a response to the “domestic terrorism” of Charleston.  He offered “Misheberach” to the suffering.

Father Erich Rutten, representing the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, brought greetings from Bishop Bernard Hebda.  He noted the history of Archbishop John Ireland establishing the African American congregation of St. Peter Claver Church in 1888.  Father Rutten challenged us: “what have we done lately for civil rights in the community?”

The Very Rev. Paul Lebens-Englund of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral reminded us by way of his sons that our children – the future of our country and society – would be watching carefully and noting the integrity of our response.

The Reverend Nazim B. Fakir offered closing remarks from the pulpit of his 135 year-old AME church founded only 17 years after the promulgation of Emancipation Proclamation and between the end of Reconstruction (1877) and the “separate but equal” Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) setting the stage for civil rights struggles ahead.  Reverend Fakir called for an end to white supremacy and called – on behalf of us all – for God’s wisdom, protection, and courage.

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