On Wednesday, September 28 at 1:00 P.M., historians, rabbis, pastors, and representatives of many civic and educational organizations will gather at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale grave site of William E. Blackstone, recognizing the 175th anniversary of his birth, and his historical significance as a pioneer of respectful relationships between Christians and Jews. Words of tribute will be given by Dr. Michael Oren, Israel’s Deputy Minister for Diplomacy, a historian who has written about Blackstone in his books on the American-Israeli relationship, and Professor Paul Rood, of Biola University, a historian and organizer of the event. Consul General Sam Grundwerg, of the Israeli Consulate of Los Angeles, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Reverend Jim Tolle, Senior Pastor of the El Camino Church, will also speak and participate in the ceremony along with community leaders from the Southern California Jewish and Christian communities and Blackstone family members.
Returning from Palestine to his home in Chicago, Blackstone gathered a broad group of scholars and leaders for a historic multi-faith conference on the Past, Present and Future of Israel. In 1891, Blackstone drafted and circulated a petition for presentation to President Benjamin Harrison, calling for an international conference to address the suffering of the Russian Jewish refugees and allow them to return and resettle their ancient homeland. Blackstone’s historic document, signed by over four hundred of the most prominent Americans, is recognized by historians as one of the earliest and most significant events in American Zionist history
Blackstone’s mobilization of Christian support for a Jewish national homeland as early as 1891, five years before the publication of Theodore Herzl’s The Jewish State in 1897, motivated Jewish businessman Nathan Straus and Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandies to call Blackstone the “Father of Zionism.” Brandeis invited Blackstone to address a national Zionist Conference in 1916, and introduced him as “Zionism’s greatest ally outside of its own ranks.” In 1916, Zionist leaders asked Blackstone to gain endorsement for his Jewish homeland petition from Protestant denominations, college presidents and other Gentile civic leaders. This was presented to President Woodrow Wilson and was influential in obtaining his support for the British Balfour Resolution of 1917.