Jack Mendelsohn Forums

Rev. Jack Mendelsohn

Named for Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Jack Mendelsohn, a tireless advocate for social justice for half a century, this series features a variety of speakers on a wide range of social justice topics. The events are interactive, often including discussions and workshops. Past Jack Mendelsohn Forums include Rev. Dan McKanan, who discussed his book “Prophetic Encounters: Religion and the American Radical Tradition”; Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed, who spoke about the African American experience with Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists;  and Thandeka, who gave a special presentation on Unitarian Universalism and social justice.

About Jack Mendelsohn (1918–2012):

(Excerpted from “Called out into the great, open, windy world,” By Rev. John Gibbons. Read the entire article here)

Jack Mendelsohn is significantly responsible for making Unitarian Universalism what so many of us assume it of course is, but which Unitarian Universalism wasn’t always: a public ministry, ever committed to freedom, justice, human rights, and the spirit of democracy.

When Jack Mendelsohn accepted a UU award he chose the occasion to critique the oft-quoted claim by Theodore Parker (later picked up by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) that “the arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  Jack agreed that the universe is long, but, wary of unwarranted optimism, he warned that there is nothing inevitable. “Nothing is settled!” he exclaimed. “Nothing! If—if!—it is to bend toward justice, it will be human hands that do the bending, and those hands can be our hands.”

Jack transformed the liberal but stodgy Arlington Street Church by welcoming artists, young people, Boston’s new black leadership and public figures such as Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He was an engaged and controversial minister who confronted racism, sexism, and injustice at every turn. His friends included Martin Luther King, with whom he marched in Selma, Alabama, in 1965.

Recalling their time at the Arlington Street Church, former Gov. Michael Dukakis said, “People think times are tough these days, but the Tea Party and its views are a pale imitation of the kind of hysteria that ruled the land at that time of McCarthy era. With fear leading the way, there weren’t many people who had the courage to stand up and call us to our better values, and Jack was one of them.”