A free screening of the award-winning documentary “Spiritual Audacity: The Story of Abraham Joshua Heschel” will be presented at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16, at the Community Campus auditorium in Hailey.
Produced by Journey Films, “Spiritual Audacity” is one of the latest films by Martin Doblmeier, a documentarian whose work has aired on PBC, ABC, NBC, the BBC and other broadcast outlets around the world.
Winner of numerous awards—including Emmys, Gabriel and International Film and Television Festival awards—Journey films has been said to have accomplished for religious or spiritual topics what Ken Burns did for historical subjects.
“I am in awe of Martin Doblmeier’s work,” noted journalist Bill Moyers.
Heschel’s mother was murdered by Nazis during World War II. Two of his sisters died in Nazi concentration camps. Having narrowly escaped the Holocaust and emigrated to New York, Rabbi Heschel became one of the most influential voices intersecting the world of religion and public life.
The film screening will be followed by a panel discussion by local clergy addressing the significance of faith in coming to terms with the divisive political and social issues facing the U.S. and the Wood River Valley.
Pastor Stephen McCandless of the Sun Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church said he believes that examining the biographical profile of Heschel helps us see the common denominators we have as human beings no matter what faith tradition—or lack of one—we hold.
“Heschel was considered a radical in his time because of positions in his prolific writings and his public challenges to the United States government, organized religion and common citizens over issues of race, ethnicity, and war,” McCandless said. “Now we see how he was far ahead of so many of his peers in being on the right side of so many issues. There is much to learn from this man’s story.”
Heschel, originally from Poland, descended from a historic lineage of rabbis and prominent Jewish theologians. He was a professor of Jewish mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and authored numerous popular books on Jewish philosophy. He became a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. and other luminaries of the Civil Rights Movement, a leading critic of the Vietnam War, a champion for Soviet Jews, and a pioneer in the work of interfaith dialogue.
The film’s title, “Spiritual Audacity,” comes from Heschel’s response to President John F. Kennedy, who invited him to a White House conference on race and religion, intended to derail a planned march on Washington. Susannah Heschel recalled her father’s response, sent by telegram: “‘I propose that you, Mr. President, declare a state of moral emergency. The hour calls for moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.’”
This educational event is co-sponsored by the Sun Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, and Valley of Peace Lutheran Church. Additional clergy from other faith communities are welcome to participate. Tony Evans, reporter for the Idaho Mountain Express and author, will moderate a discussion following the presentation of the 57-minute film.
Juli Miller, a member of the Sun Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church and organizer of the event, said that Heschel’s example could bring together faith communities in the valley for common purposes.
“Religion seems to be a divisive agent more than a uniting one,” Miller said. “But now more than ever considering the crises and challenges in the world today, religion has an opportunity to step up and show its power to transform. We don’t need to have all the answers, but in our tiny valley with a cornucopia of faith groups, raising questions is important.”
Years ago, Miller’s church sponsored a showing at the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival of the documentary film “The Power of Forgiveness,” also produced by Journey Films.
“This movie earned the Audience’s Choice Award, and we had to put on an additional late-night screening in the Opera House to accommodate the hundreds of people who couldn’t get into the earlier screenings,” Miller said.
About three years ago, The Sun Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church invited the Valley of the Peace Lutheran Church in Hailey and the Wood River Jewish Community, and Emmanuel Episcopal in Hailey, to partner for the public screening of “Come Before Winter,” a docu-drama on the German Lutheran theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
“That was just before COVID and we had plans to do a series on spiritual leaders who had an impact in the political and everyday world,” said Miller. She said the church and its partners hope the screening of “Spiritual Audacity” will restart an ecumenical discussion on topics affecting the valley.
Post a comment as anonymous
Watch this discussion.
Welcome to the discussion.