Edmund R. (Ned) Hanauer (1938-2006): A Prophetic Voice Is Stilled

Article excerpt

The death of Edmund R. (Ned) Hanauer on Aug. 10, 2006 from pancreatic cancer, at the age of 68, means the loss of a prophetic voice who devoted his life to the quest for justice-in particular to a fair and equitable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

This writer first met Ned Hanauer almost 50 years ago, when we were college students active in the work of the American Council for Judaism, a group committed to the philosophy of classical Reform Judaism. That philosophy held that Judaism was a religion, not a nationality; opposed the concept of Jewish nationalism; and rejected the manner in which the State of Israel and Middle East politics had often replaced God and religion in Jewish religious institutions.

Ned's grandfather, Elias Kaufman of Lake Charles, Louisiana, was one of the founding members of the Council, and I remember visiting him in Lake Charles on several occasions. My political views being more conservative than Ned's and those of his brother, Pete, and more in tune their grandfather's, he would take me aside and ask, "Can't you do something with my grandsons? They are far too liberal."

As it turned out, I could not do very much. When he was teaching at Babson College in Boston and I was working in the U.S. Senate, Ned invited me to participate in a debate about the war in Vietnam. His views and mine were quite opposite, but Ned always welcomed a heated and sincere exchange of views.

Ned was born March 1, 1938 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He earned a B.A. in history from Dartmouth College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from American University in Washington, DC. His dissertation-titled, 'An Analysis of Conflicting Jewish Positions Regarding the Nature and Political Role of American Jews, with Particular Emphasis on Political Zionism"-indicates his early and abiding concern with the many aspects of this issue.

Ned went on to teach political science to the armed forces at the overseas division of the University of Maryland and at Babson College. Realizing, however, that his commitment to peace in the Middle East and to advancing what he believed to be the humane tradition of prophetic Judaism required full-time attention, as well as an organizational base, Ned left teaching in 1971. The following year he founded Search for Justice and Equality in Palestine/Israel (SEARCH). Its mission was to inform journalists, legislators and opinion makers about aspects of the conflict which did not always receive a hearing in the political establishment and media.

Ned was, in many respects, part of a long line of thoughtful Jewish leaders who believed that Judaism was dedicated to the highest moral law, not to defending whatever other Jews might do. In fact, Jews were to be held to the very highest standards, the very ones they offered to the world in the Hebrew Bible. The "Israel right or wrong" philosophy adopted by many Jewish leaders and organizations was, to Ned, a violation of Judaism's moral message to the world.

Ned worked with men and women of every race and religion in pursuit of justice, not only in the Middle East but in every world arena. …