Former Cranford Rabbi Was a Freedom Rider, World War II Hero

It’s one thing to read history in a book. It’s a whole other thing to have lived it. Rabbi Sidney Shanken served as the rabbi of Temple Beth-El in Cranford from 1957 until 1980 and he took part in two of the biggest historic events of the 20th century; World War II and the civil rights movement. Shanken flew 54 combat missions over Europe as part of the US Army Air Corps. After being wounded he returned to the States.

This was not the only time, though, he served his country. In the early 1960s, as legal segregation and discrimination were being fought, he again felt called. He traveled to the South and became a Freedom Rider and marched with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Alabama.

Cranford Radio had the honor of speaking with Rabbi Shanken as he recounted some of his experiences.

Listen to Rabbi Shanken

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One thought on “Former Cranford Rabbi Was a Freedom Rider, World War II Hero

  1. Rabbi Shanken officiated at my brother Barry and my Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth El in 1968. A year or two later (though I am hard pressed to be sure of the date), I participated in a Peace Walk with him in Cranford in opposition to the Viet Nam war. Maybe the start of my public service career! [It is possibly it was a peace walk reported in the Cranford Chronicle to have taken place on November 13, 1969.] When I was a sophomore in High School (though in those days we were housed in Orange Avenue Junior High School) the Rabbi accepted an invitation on behalf of our student action group to participate in a debate against someone from the John Birch Society, whose views were racist, antisemitic, and pro-war. He represented the “good guys” extremely well. Though he no longer was at the Cranford Temple, he also officiated at my wedding in 1984.

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