Focus on Faith 

Indianapolis welcomes the Rev. William H. Hudnut III and Rabbi Murray Saltzman back to the city this weekend. The men are revisiting their unique interfaith relationship as hosts of a WRTV-Channel 6 program that aired from 1967 to 1972 during a free, public program May 20, as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation.

As co-hosts, Hudnut, then pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, and Saltzman, then rabbi of Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, made public their shared concerns for the well-being of Indianapolis and for human rights during a volatile period centered on the Civil Rights Movement. Civic leaders at the time referred to the weekly television programs as “an illustration of civility through dialogue.”

The program ended when Hudnut ran for and was elected to Congress. He subsequently served four terms as mayor of Indianapolis, 1976 to 1992. Hudnut, though officially retired, currently occupies the Urban Land Institute/Joseph C. Canizaro chair for public policy at the Urban Land Institute office in Washington, D.C.; is the mayor of Chevy Chase, Md.; and is a member of the Board of the National League of Cities.

Rabbi Saltzman served IHC from 1967 to 1978, when he left to serve the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Semi-retired, Saltzman currently serves as rabbi for Bat Yam Congregation on Sanibel Island, Fla., after serving on the Board of Regents at Morgan State University and on the Board of Families, USA.
During a recent telephone interview from his D.C. office, Hudnut reflected on the importance of “exploring common concerns, learning from each other and respecting our differences.”

“I think it’s very unfortunate there seems to be a lack of civility now,” Hudnut commented. “We now have a holy war mentality. We see the effect politically with the defeat of moderate conservatives. I hope it turns around, but I don’t think we can ignite a change during the [May 20] program. We’ll be preaching to the choir. The extremists won’t be coming. I hope we can light a candle, however.”

In the wake of the Vietnam era, Saltzman expressed his deep concern over the disintegration of families. He abhorred simplistic explanations. “Even the term ‘generation gap’ has become such a slogan that it too is irrelevant to the issue. We had better begin to recognize the insidious nature of family disintegration. We are confronted with a social problem of epidemic proportions.” He proposed programs that met with some resistance.

Referring to the May 20 public program and his attendance at 6 p.m. services at IHC on May 19, Hudnut said, “I’m excited to be coming back to honor Rabbi Saltzman. When I was in Congress, I was so pleased to introduce his name to President Gerald Ford to be a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.” Saltzman served from 1975 to 1983. As mayor of Indianapolis, Hudnut appointed Saltzman vice president of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Commission in charge of the Task Force on Human Relations.

“These two men were making a difference in our community at a critical time,” commented Connie Braun, chair of the May 20 program. “The impact of their friendship and leadership has been long-lasting at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, which maintains an active program of civic engagement.”

The Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation is located at 6501 N. Meridian. For more information about the anniversary celebration, call 317-255-6647.

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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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