The November 4th CALS Rabbi Ira Sanders Distinguished Lecture pays tribute this year to the man who inspired it

The 2018 Rabbi Ira Sanders Distinguished Lecture of the Central Arkansas Library System will honor Rabbi Ira Sanders himself, as two expert scholars engage in a lively dialogue on his inspirational work and legacy.

The lecture will take place at Temple B’nai Israel, 3700 North Rodney Parham Road, at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 4. A reception and book signing will follow the program, and copies of the book will be available for purchase. The event is free and open to the public.

Rabbi Sanders was a member of the library Board of Trustees for over 40 years, but his contribution to social justice, to the Little Rock community, and to the whole region stretched far beyond his library service.

James L. Moses, author of Just and Righteous Causes: Rabbi Ira Sanders and the Fight for Racial and Social Justice in Arkansas, 1926-1963, will join Mark K. Bauman, editor of the journal Southern Jewish History, for a dialogue focusing on the life and work of Rabbi Sanders.

Their dialogue coincides with the launch of the new book by James Moses, just released from the University of Arkansas Press. Moses and Bauman will discuss Sanders’s lifelong work for social and racial justice in Arkansas and its relation to the efforts of other southern rabbis during the civil rights movement.

Rabbi Ira Sanders built an unforgettable legacy through his passionate advocacy for social justice and the many initiatives he founded to better the lives of others. He was a founder of the Little Rock School of Social Work, the Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind and the Urban League of Greater Little Rock, where he served as an executive and advisory board member for more than 30 years. Dr. Sanders also served as rabbi at Congregation B’nai Israel for 38 years, which makes the congregation’s building a natural setting for this unique lecture. Sanders, who lived in Little Rock from 1926 until his death in 1985, was an outspoken supporter of racial integration, equal opportunity, and women’s rights.

James Moses states: “Rabbi Ira Sanders was a warrior for social and racial justice throughout his life. He took these words from Isaiah strongly to heart: Learn to do well: seek Justice – relieve the oppressed.

Through a lifetime devoted to this moral imperative, Moses says, “Sanders made a real difference in the lives of many thousands over an influential career that spanned the eras of the Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and beyond. Sanders’s inimitable career gives us a window through which we can understand the history of Arkansas and the South through the tumultuous 20th Century. I look forward to sharing his singular story – and hearing more stories about him – in Little Rock on November 4.”

Mark K. Bauman praises the new book by Moses: “James Moses has written a trailblazing book on a true Jewish American hero. Ira Sanders was involved in the civil rights movement long before other people were. He was devoted to a variety of causes to help people in need. Sanders is well-deserving of the marvelous tribute that Moses has given him through this biography.”

Bauman is also enthusiastic about the upcoming dialogue. “I very much look forward to relating the work of Sanders to the work of other Reform Rabbis in the South and to sharing these remarkable experiences with an energetic and informed audience.”

Rabbi Barry Block, current leader of Congregation B’nai Israel, sees continuing value in the legacy of Rabbi Sanders. “In collaboration with interfaith clergy partners, members of Congregation B’nai Israel, and diverse leaders throughout the community, Rabbi Sanders transformed Arkansas for the better,” he says. Rabbi Block believes that people of all belief systems can be inspired to bold action against today’s injustice by the example of Rabbi Sanders.

The 2018 Rabbi Ira Sanders Distinguished Lecture is sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System and Congregation B’nai Israel and co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Arkansas and the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.

For more information about the Rabbi Ira Sanders Distinguished Lecture, contact Madelyn Ganos at mganos@cals.org or (501) 918-3030.

Little Rock Look Back: Rabbi and longtime CALS Trustee Ira Sanders

On May 6, 1894, Ira Eugene Sanders was born in Missouri.  After receiving an undergraduate degree and rabbinate degree in Cincinnati, he was ordained a rabbi in 1919.  He served congregations in Pennsylvania and New York before coming to Little Rock in September 1926.

Shortly after arriving to lead the B’nai Israel congregation, Rabbi Sanders became active in the Little Rock community.  Among his projects were the Little Rock Community Fund, Little Rock School of Social Work (which he founded), Central Council of Social Agencies, and University of Arkansas Extension Department. During the Great Depression, he helped organize the Pulaski County Public Welfare Commission.  Other areas of involvement over his career included the Arkansas Human Betterment League, Urban League of Greater Little Rock and Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind.  On November 3, 1930, Rabbi Sanders debated Clarence Darrow about the existence of God in front of a packed house at Little Rock High School.

For his many involvements, he received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 1951 from the University of Arkansas.  Three years later he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute of Religion.

A lifelong supporter of a Jewish state, he participated in nineteen bond drives for the state of Israel.  In August 1963, he retired as the leader of B’nai Israel after over 35 years. He would remain as Rabbi Emeritus until his deal in 1985.

In January 1978, Rabbi Sanders tendered his resignation from the Central Arkansas Library board of directors.  The City Board of Directors passed resolution 5873 which noted that he had served for 51 years on the Library Board. He was first appointed in 1926.  He served during 19 different Mayoral administrations from Charles Moyer’s first term through Donald Mehlburger’s.

On April 8, 1985, Rabbi Ira Eugene Sanders died of natural causes.  He is buried in the City’s Oakland Jewish Cemetery.  The Central Arkansas Library System honors his memory with an annual distinguished lecture series.

Little Rock Look Back: Rabbi Ira Sanders

On May 6, 1894, Ira Eugene Sanders was born in Missouri.  After receiving an undergraduate degree and rabbinate degree in Cincinnati, he was ordained a rabbi in 1919.  He served congregations in Pennsylvania and New York before coming to Little Rock in September 1926.

Shortly after arriving to lead the B’nai Israel congregation, Rabbi Sanders became active in the Little Rock community.  Among his projects were the Little Rock Community Fund, Little Rock School of Social Work (which he founded), Central Council of Social Agencies, and University of Arkansas Extension Department. During the Great Depression, he helped organize the Pulaski County Public Welfare Commission.  Other areas of involvement over his career included the Arkansas Human Betterment League, Urban League of Greater Little Rock and Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind.  On November 3, 1930, Rabbi Sanders debated Clarence Darrow about the existence of God in front of a packed house at Little Rock High School.

For his many involvements, he received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 1951 from the University of Arkansas.  Three years later he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute of Religion.

A lifelong supporter of a Jewish state, he participated in nineteen bond drives for the state of Israel.  In August 1963, he retired as the leader of B’nai Israel after over 35 years. He would remain as Rabbi Emeritus until his deal in 1985.

In January 1978, Rabbi Sanders tendered his resignation from the Central Arkansas Library board of directors.  The City Board of Directors passed resolution 5873 which noted that he had served for 51 years on the Library Board. He was first appointed in 1926.  He served during 19 different Mayoral administrations from Charles Moyer’s first term through Donald Mehlburger’s.

On April 8, 1985, Rabbi Ira Eugene Sanders died of natural causes.  He is buried in the City’s Oakland Jewish Cemetery.  The Central Arkansas Library System honors his memory with an annual distinguished lecture series.

Little Rock Look Back: Longtime CALS trustee Rabbi Ira Sanders

SandersIraE_fOn May 6, 1894, Ira Eugene Sanders was born in Missouri.  After receiving an undergraduate degree and rabbinate degree in Cincinnati, he was ordained a rabbi in 1919.  He served congregations in Pennyslvania and New York before coming to Little Rock in September 1926.

Shortly after arriving to lead the B’nai Israel congregation, Rabbi Sanders became active in the Little Rock community.  Among his projects were the Little Rock Community Fund, Little Rock School of Social Work (which he founded), Central Council of Social Agencies, and University of Arkansas Extension Department. During the Great Depression, he helped organize the Pulaski County Public Welfare Commission.  Other areas of involvement over his career included the Arkansas Human Betterment League, Urban League of Greater Little Rock and Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind.  On November 3, 1930, Rabbi Sanders debated Clarence Darrow about the existence of God in front of a packed house at Little Rock High School.

For his many involvements, he received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 1951 from the University of Arkansas.  Three years later he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute of Religion.

A lifelong supporter of a Jewish state, he participated in nineteen bond drives for the state of Israel.  In August 1963, he retired as the leader of B’nai Israel after over 35 years. He would remain as Rabbi Emeritus until his deal in 1985.

In January 1978, Rabbi Sanders tendered his resignation from the Central Arkansas Library board of directors.  The City Board of Directors passed resolution 5873 which noted that he had served for 51 years on the Library Board. He was first appointed in 1926.  He served during 19 different Mayoral administrations from Charles Moyer’s first term through Donald Mehlburger’s.

On April 8, 1985, Rabbi Ira Eugene Sanders died of natural causes.  He is buried in the City’s Oakland Jewish Cemetery.  The Central Arkansas Library System honors his memory with an annual distinguished lecture series.

Little Rock’s historic Sanders/Darrow debate recreated tonight at CALS Ron Robinson Theater

Rabbi Sanders (top) and Mr. Darrow (bottom)

Tonight the Central Arkansas Library System offers a chance to go back 85 years and one month to November 3, 1930.

On that date the nationally-known religious skeptic Clarence Darrow debated immortality with Rabbi Ira Sanders at Little Rock High School in an auditorium packed with more than 2,000 people. This event will be explored anew as the Central Arkansas Library System’s (CALS) 2015 Sanders Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, December 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the CALS Ron Robinson Theater, 100 River Market Avenue. The event is free and open to the public, and will include a reception. The reenactment is in conjunction with Temple B’nai Israel’s sesquicentennial anniversary.

Jason Thompson (Rabbi Sanders) spent ten years acting, writing, and directing for Red Octopus. At Arkansas Repertory Theatre he was featured in The Comedy of Errors, Barefoot in the Park, Wit, and One Ninth. Thompson has trained in improvisation, toured as a stand-up comedian, and performed in films, voice overs, and commercials.

Mark Johnson (Clarence Darrow) has appeared in many plays at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, including Kiss of the Spider Woman, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. His film work includes A Time to Kill, The Last Ride, and the forthcoming God’s Not Dead 2. His paintings are shown at Stephano’s Galley in the Heights. He lives in Hillcrest with his son.

The Sanders Distinguished Lecture was established in 2000 to commemorate Rabbi Sanders’ forty years of service on the Boards of Trustees of Little Rock Public Library and CALS, the lectures include topics that support Rabbi Sanders’ commitment to intellectual freedom. Past speakers include Taylor Branch, Alex Kurzem, James Cone, John M. Barry, Ron Mallett, Bobby Roberts, and Lilly Ledbetter.

Reservations are requested, but not required. RSVP online via Eventjoy. For more information contact 918-3000.