Fall Speaker Series: Dr. Marty Nathan

13445629_10154288611543147_7745777084810082661_nThe Adult Education Fall Speaker Series is privileged to feature Dr. Marty Nathan this Sunday, October 30 after worship in Bailey Hall.  This is the second installment of a series of speakers featuring Local Heroes of Social Justice.

Dr. Nathan is a committed lifelong activist regarding issues of social justice including race, environmental justice, homophobia, economic disparity and civil rights.  She graduated from Brown University, and then Duke Medical School in 1977.  In addition to her extensive social justice efforts, Dr. Nathan is currently a Family Medicine specialist based in Western Massachusetts.

Notably, Marty Nathan’s first husband, Dr. Mike Nathan, was killed in The Greensboro Massacre in a confrontation with Ku Klux Klan and American Nazis.   All of the white gunmen were ultimately acquitted.  At the time her husband was slain, Dr. Nathan’s daughter was only six months old.   In 1985, Dr. Marty Nathan prevailed in a major civil rights lawsuit against the City of Greensboro, in which the City settled without apology on behalf of itself the KKK and American Nazis.  Together with other victims, Dr. Nathan founded the Greensboro Justice Fund which helped grassroots organizations fighting against racism, environmental injustice, union-busting, homophobic violence & civil liberties violations in the South.  She also participated in  The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the early 2000’s, which lasted more than two years.

Many original documents relative to the civil rights lawsuit and the Greensboro Massacre are available for review online as PDFs at the Civil Rights Greensboro website where you can browse by subject and date.  These documents provide a wealth of information on the struggle against the Ku Klux Klan around the Greensboro Massacre, and brings the full impact and tremendous weight of those days front & center in our consciousness.

Dr. Nathan has continued her work in social justice with her current husband, Prof. Elliott Fratkin of Smith College.  Together, they helped found the Cliniquita Fund.  This fund, based in Springfield, brings healthcare to undocumented immigrants.  Four years ago, Dr. Nathan also helped found Climate Action Now, which has formed the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition. She is a columnist and regular contributor on issues of climate justice to the Daily Hampshire Gazette & the Springfield Republican.

This opportunity to hear Dr. Marty Nathan – an extraordinary Local Hero of Social Justice – is not to be missed.  Her wealth of experience and commitment to social justice is inspirational.  If you have questions or would like more information, please contact the church office at 567-6287 or leave a message here.

Not Choosing Sides

By now many  of you have heard or read that the United Church of Christ voted Tuesday, June 30th at its General Synod Meeting in Cleveland to approve a resolution calling for divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s control of the West Bank and to boycott  products made in the West Bank. The vote was 508 in favor and 124 against with 38 abstentions.  As an appointed delegate for the Mass Conference, I , along with Rev. Marisa Brown Ludwig, was able to participate in this historic vote.

I knew beforehand that this resolution was likely to be the most significant resolution facing the Synod. I was instructed to study the resolution carefully beforehand but not to decide my vote until the Synod meeting.  The polity of the Synod is not as a representative, democratic process but rather to study an issue collectively and try to listen for the voice of Still Speaking God.  The arguments for the resolution were many and powerful:  the many cruel and unjust treatments of the Palestinians by the Israel government,  the vote by the Mass Conference recently at its annual meeting to  support the resolution, a letter circulated at the meeting from Archbishop Desmond Tutu  endorsing the resolution, the argument from one Jewish supporter at the meeting that standing up to injustices against the Palestinians or anyone else was the best way to prevent another holocaust,  and,  from another liberal Jew, that voting Yes would  would make it easier for other progressive Jews to try to change the policy of the  Israeli government.

On the other hand,  I heard that when the Presbyterian Church voted 310 to 303 in  June 2014 to endorse divestment, that several hundred Palestinians lost their jobs working at Sodastream in West Bank,  and that many relationship[s between Presbyterian pastors and Jewish colleagues were cut off.  I personally felt that an article in the Christian Century last August by Peter Pettit, Director of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding, entitled “On not Choosing Sides”  made a lot of sense and I later quoted from it.

When the time came Tuesday morning to vote on the  resolution, I decided to stand up publicly and speak at the “against” microphone.  In essence I said “that as a physician, when faced with a difficult decision, I tried to follow the dictum  “do no harm”.   Both Jews and Palestinians live with the mortal fear of loosing their identity, legitimacy, and ties to their homeland  When  people have these  fears , anything that bolsters the case being made against them ends up contributing to the conflict, not to the resolution of it.  Focusing just on the evils of the occupation, which are real and many, ignores other deadly forces in the region.  Since we have not walked in the shoes or sandals of the Jews or Palestinians, I don’t think that we are in a position to choose sides.  Let us not be guilty of causing harm.  I encourage you to vote NO.”

That evening I called my best Jewish friend back in Longmeadow and gave him an update about the vote.  I tried to reassure him that the UCC Synod criticism of the Israel government is not anti-Semitism, that First Church had not been asked to vote on the resolution, and that the two delegates from First Church did not support the resolution. I told him that I would be trying to support other actions that would encourage the principal parties to believe that they have more to gain from risking peace than continuing the status quo and the occupation.

My Jewish friend seemed very appreciate that I had sought him out to share my thoughts and feelings.  I would encourage you to do the same with your Jewish friends and help keep the good interfaith relationships we have in Longmeadow strong.

Mark Pohlman

Pastoral Letter on Racism

Pastor Marisa Brown Ludwig would like to bring to our collective attention this recent letter available here.  The letter is written in response to “the recent rash of deaths of African Americans at hands of police, the UCC national leaders hope Martin Luther King weekend will be an opportunity for us to both address those issues through our continuing advocacy and hope for change toward King’s beloved community.”

Please reflect on this open letter & include your thoughts in the comments below.

Resolution of Witness & Conflict


At First Church Longmeadow, we are blessed to be part of a church community that gives its parishioners opportunities to handle the most difficult issues in a thoughtful, supportive & intellectual manner.  The next session of Adult Education‘s Ethics series will be no exception.

The MACUCC has promulgated a Resolution of Witness concerning the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.  The PDF Version of this Resolution is here for your review:

How does this Resolution influence the complex effort towards peace in our beloved Holy Land?  How should we approach this question of boycott & divestment from certain corporations connected to this heart-wrenching conflict?

This is difficult subject matter.   Thankfully, our representative & impressive panel of presenters will help us discern our approach to the Resolution –  before it is voted upon by both the General Synod, and our own congregation.

The panel will occur on Sunday Feb 1, 2015 11:30 – 1pm in Bailey Hall (downstairs) at the First Church of Christ Longmeadow.  Panelists include Gay Harter, Professor Joe Levine of UMass Amherst, Rabbi Amy Katz of Temple Beth-El & Professor Justin Cammy of Smith College.  The panel will be moderated by our own Pastor Marisa Brown Ludwig – MACUCC Chair of the Task Force on Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations.

The promotional flyer is available here for your review.  We hope you will join us!