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Community—Rabbi Israel Dresner on the Jewish Commitment to the Civil Rights

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — On Monday, May 2, at 10:45 a.m., the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires hosts Rabbi Israel Dresner, one of the most prominent rabbis who participated in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and beyond.


Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King and Rabbi Israel Dresner (submitted photo)
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King and Rabbi Israel Dresner (submitted photo)

He will discuss his own work and his experiences with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This free program at Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road in Pittsfield, is part of the Federation’s Connecting With Community series.

Israel Dresner, rabbi emeritus from Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne, NJ, was the closest rabbi to Dr. King, who on two occasions (1963 and 1966) addressed his congregation. He was the first Rabbi arrested in the freedom struggle in 1961 in an interfaith clergy Freedom Ride. At Dr. King’s request, Rabbi Dresner helped organize the largest group of clergy ever arrested at one time in American history (65 Protestant ministers and 10 rabbis) in Albany, GA in August 1962.  In 1964 at Dr. King’s request, he organized the largest number of rabbis ever arrested at one time (18) in St. Augustine, FL. He was later dubbed “The Most Arrested Rabbi in America.”

Dresner continued his civil rights activism and advocacy throughout his career as a reform Jewish rabbi in northern New Jersey, participating in the 1962 Albany campaign to desegregate municipal facilities and in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march. He retired in 1996.

For more information, please call the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires at (413) 442-4360, ext. 10. The program precedes a kosher lunch at noon ($2 suggested donation for adults over 60 years of age, $7 for all others). Advance reservations are required for lunch and can be made by calling (413) 442-2200 before 9 a.m. on the day of the program.


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