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Discussion Questions

Part I
  1. Initial assessment: Who wrote this telegram? When was it written? What was the context for writing the telegram?
  2. How do you think the format (a telegram) might have influenced the message?
  3. Who was his specific audience? What larger audience might this telegram also have been meant for?
  4. In the first half of the telegram, Heschel asks the president to make some demands of religious leaders. Let's recap: What are these demands? Why does Heschel think this is necessary? Your interpretation: What do you think of a religious leader asking the President of the United States (a secular leader) to make religious demands of religious leaders?
  5. In the second half of the telegram, Heschel makes certain proposals to the President. What are these proposals? Your interpretation: How do they blend religious issues and political issues?
  6. Heschel says that "We forfeit the right to worship God as long as we continue to humiliate Negroes." What do you think he meant by this? Do you agree? Do you think worshipping God is a right that we earn through our actions? If so, what do you think are the kinds of actions that might forfeit this right?
  7. What do you think Abraham Joshua Heschel meant when he said "The hour calls for high moral grandeur and spiritual audacity?" What do those words mean to you?
  8. What do you think the purpose of this telegram is?
Part II
  1. How do you think Abraham Joshua Heschel's experience and/or Jewish values influence his participation in the Civil Rights Movement? What in the telegram makes you say that?
  2. Do you think this is an appropriate role for a rabbi? Why or why not?
  3. Are there any current political/social issues on which you think rabbis today should take a stand? What kind of role would you want to see them take?

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Discussion Questions." (Viewed on January 18, 2018) <>.


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