A President of Seventy
Noting that our missionary program included nothing by way of outreach to our Jewish neighbors, he instructed us (for, yes, Boston was one of the five) to counsel together and recommend action. President Bushman assigned me, in my capacity as a President of Seventy, to prepare a response.

I lack time or strength to address all the ways that this task thrilled me, but here are a couple. As a teenager, I’d resonated to a number of sections on the subject of relations between the Jewish people and the Latter-day Saints. Our friend and neighbor and bishop and Congressman Ken Dyal had been active and eloquent, along with a Hollywood personality (swimsuit manufacturer!) named Rose Marie Reid and others whose names I don’t remember.

The interest they awoke in me remained pretty abstract in San Bernardino, where I knew no Jews. But Jewish friends at MIT, especially roommate Richie Garber, put a lot of flesh on it and stimulated me to add Judaica to my reading and studying interests. As mentioned earlier, Richie and I went to church together, shared a number of valuable discussions and the impressive warmth and hospitality of his family when we visited with them in Kew Gardens.

Out of all that, I think I learned barely enough to avoid looking as foolish as the average Latter-day Saint missionary who sails into a Gospel discussion with a person of Jewish heritage. So, with that feeble armament, I gathered together as many local Jewish Latter-day Saints as I could
find and formed them into a committee to address President Kimball’s mandate.

After considerable deliberation, we decided to put together a set of sections for ward worship services and also a series of evening “fireside” gatherings. aimed at reducing the general level of ignorance in our congregations about the distinctive concerns and sensitivities of their Jewish neighbors.

Hard to point to any measurable impact of our efforts except perhaps in the enhanced level of knowledge and fellowship among our committee members. The Andersons became particularly good friends of Jeff and Hannah Goldberg and their family and enjoyed a couple of seders in their home and any number of visits and shared outings.

Which brings up a trio of anecdotes:

Anecdote #1: Jeff had to be very careful in his communications with his parents and other relatives: those who were aware of his conversion tried hard to pretend that they weren’t; he thinks his father went to his grave without having fully admitted to himself that his son had apostatized. Well, around 1978, when I was on the High Council, Jeff served as Boston Stake Financial Clerk. This led to a touchy exchange when an uncle (or some such relative) heard that he was Treasurer of his congregation and called with the heartiest of congratulations. In the context of a synagogue, of course, the Treasurer is a particularly honorific position.

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