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Steve Hunegs

Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council

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.

Steve Hunegs: Museum of Russian Art commemorates the 'Great Patriotic War'

The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis commemorated the 70th anniversary of the end of “The Great Patriotic War” and the triumph of the USSR (and the legacy state of the Russian Federation), the United States, and the Allies in the defeat of Nazi Germany. 

On the evening of May 9 – the precise day of celebrations in the Russian Federation – the museum hosted a reception with a viewing of an exhibit about the Battle of Stalingrad – the great turning point of the Second World War on the eastern front.

The director of the museum, Vladimir Von Tsurikov, and its staff and supporters, organized a poignant and educational program with the backdrop of the beautiful museum and its collection of Russian art and artifacts.  Supporters of the commemoration included the Russian Cultural Centre in Washington, D.C., the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, with additional support from the Minnesota State Arts Board and Wells Fargo Foundation Minnesota.

The program participants included welcoming remarks from Vladimir Von Tsurikov.  Professor Theofanis Stavrou, professor of Russian History at the University of Minnesota, spoke about the strategic mistake of Hitler in ordering a full-fledged attack against Stalingrad to the detriment of the Leningrad and Moscow fronts.   He also noted – as with all societies – the younger generations confronting the iconic events of their elders – in the Russian case, “the children of Zhivago,” and their impressions of the USSR’s existential struggle with Nazi Germany.  Greetings were delivered by General Yushmanov of the Russian Consulate General in Seattle, Washington, whose territory includes Minnesota.

I quoted the great Red Army journalist Vasily Grossman in my remarks: “I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man.” The Allied armed forces destroyed Nazi Germany, liberated Europe and ended the Holocaust.  In the words of Franklin Roosevelt, the United States was the “arsenal of democracy.”  Soviet armed forces provided military personnel in staggering numbers for the massive battles – including Stalingrad – fought on Soviet territory from 1941-1944 and then for the invasion of Germany in 1945.  An estimated 8.7 million Soviet soldiers were killed in battle in the Second World War according to the Russian Ministry of Defense – 480,000, alone, at the Battle of Stalingrad.  The sacrifices of the Russian and non-Russian people of the Soviet Union are almost unfathomable.

The spirit of Torgau was present for the commemoration at The Museum of Russian Art.  Great thanks to Don Patton of the Twin Cites World War II History Roundtable for making sure Minnesota World War II veterans were present at the commemoration.  Merrill Burgsthaler was part of the mobile anti-aircraft defense for the Sixth Armored Division and witnessed the carnage of Buchenwald two days after its liberation.  Walter Halloran was a combat journalist who photographed the D-Day invasion; the Malmedy Massacre; the capture of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen; and the liberation of Dachau.

Photos from the Event:

Vladimir Von Tsurikov, Director of The Russian Museum of Art

Professor Theofanis Stavrou

Don Patton (L) and Walter Halloran

Don Patton (L) and Merrill Burgsthaler

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