Saturday, May 13, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  May 14

Congregation Beth Israel Honors Bishop Martin,  May 17, 1968

The recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Texas is truly disturbing.  Methodists, and other people of faith should denounce such incidents in every way they can.  It is a good time to recall the cordial relations that have marked Jewish-Methodist relations in Texas.   

First Methodist Church Houston hosted Brotherhood Dinners during the middle decades of the 20th century specifically to combat anti-Jewish sentiments of the Ku Klux Klan and other nativist groups. 

Houston was not the only city where Jewish-Methodist relations flourished.  Rabbi Levi Olan (1903-1983) of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas (1949-1970) lectured at Perkins School of Theology and had an office in Bridwell Library.  Many of Rabbi Olan's materials can be accessed on line from Bridwell's site.

On May 17, 1968 Congregation Beth Israel in Houston dedicated its evening service to Bishop Paul E. Martin.  The Chief Rabbi of the congregation, Dr. Hyman Judah Schachtel, presided at the services. 

A resolution of love and appreciation for Bishop Martin was presented that said in part, 

Be it resolved that the Sabbath evening service of the oldest Jewish Congregation in the state of Texas, Congregation Beth Israel, on May 17, 1968, honor the bishop by presenting this resolution  and by expressing the prayer that God will bless him with many more healthy years of life and meaningful service; and be it further resolved  that a copy of it be entered into the archives of our historic congregation.. . .

Dr. Schachtel (1907-1990) became Senior Rabbi of Beth Israel in 1943 and served in that position to 1975.   He developed a close friendship with Bishop Martin’s predecessor Bishop A. Frank Smith.  He became nationally known when he delivered a prayer at President Lyndon Johnson’s inauguration in January 1965. 
In addition to serving on a variety of community boards and non-profit agencies, Schachtel was famous as an author.  His works include The Real Enjoyment of Living (1954), The Life You Want to Live (1956), The Shadowed Valley ((1962), and How to Meet the Challenge of Life and Death (1980).  He also wrote a column for the Jewish Herald Voice and had a weekly radio program.   He received an honorary doctorate from Southwestern University in 1955.

 Mrs. Schachtel, the former Barbara Levin, was director of the Quality Assurance for the Institute of Preventive Medicine at the Houston Methodist Hospital. 

Dr. Schachtel is often remembered for his aphorism, “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” 


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