Pulitzer Winner Thomas Friedman to Speak at Temple Israel

Temple Israel’s Voices of Inspiration has been bringing in some of the world’s leading figures in their fields. This year’s speaker – a familiar face to many Minnesotans – is no different.

Bestselling author and three-time Pulitzer Prize recipient Thomas Friedman – a St. Louis Park native – will be this year’s speaker. Friedman will discuss how individuals can thrive in a world of accelerating changes by staying anchored to our local communities. He will also be signing copies of his latest book, Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.

“Our community wrestles every day with the exponential change that is happening in our world,” said Temple Israel Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman. “He’s going to explore why it is important to think globally but act locally. That whole idea is one that can actually promote action, rather than [leaving us] feeling overwhelmed, which happens so easily with constant news feed and our fast-paced world. You can feel crippled from the time you wake up, and what he tells us is acting locally is the best way.”

Zimmerman brought the speaker’s series to fruition when she became the senior rabbi in 2001, with the goal of bringing the Jewish community and the Minneapolis community together to educate and encourage global citizenship.

“For me, Temple is about being in the city. Our doors are facing Hennepin. The health of the city depends upon our health, and our health depends upon the health of the city,” she said. “This event was designed to be kind of a gathering place to bring voices of our time—change agents and voices of inspiration–to the community.”

In a time of increased anti-Semitism in Minneapolis, Zimmerman says Temple Israel plays an important role as an urban congregation.

“We are often the only the only Jewish voice at many tables in the city, and that’s really important because we know everything is about relationships,” Zimmerman said. “We know that anti-Semitism grows where there is a disparate reality and there isn’t a relationship with someone in the Jewish community. I’m often the one to share the sobering reality of the Jewish experience with our interfaith partners.”

Friedman’s visit is the first Voices of Inspiration event since 2014 – a hiatus imposed due to the renovation of the synagogue. Past speakers have included George Will in 2001, Elie Wiesel in 2003, and Paul Rusesabagina, the man who saved thousands in the Rwandan Civil War and whose heroism was documented in the movie Hotel Rwanda.

“We have a variety of spectrum views on the world at Temple Israel, and in the Jewish community at-large, so we’re trying to model how to have these conversations,” she said. “I believe you can learn something from everyone. Everybody’s story has a nugget of truth that we can bring into our lives.”

Zimmerman has used lessons from the speakers as teachable moments countless times over the years.

“I’m thinking of when Elie Wiesel said ‘Life has its meaning in the moments;’ I have used that more often than I can even count,” she said. “I still remember so many different pieces and stories from each and every one of our speakers. Pirkei Avot says: ‘Sit at the feet of your sages.’ And that’s what I feel like this is. You sit at the feet and it’s amazing. Those voices of inspiration are priceless. And timeless.”

The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. on June 29, with a dessert reception and book signing to follow at 8:30 p.m. Seating is limited; tickets are open to all members of the public at https://templeisrael.com/benefit.