‘When Bad Things’ author Rabbi Harold Kushner to speak at Temple Emanu-El

Rabbi Harold Kushner

Everyone knows people who are less happy than they might be. Rabbi Harold Kushner doesn’t have the all-purpose antidote, but “Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World,” his new book, suggests ways to live more fully.

Kushner, author of the international best-seller “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” first published in 1981, will speak at a fundraising dinner at Temple Emanu-El on Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m.

People are fearful of everything from growing old, to terrorism, to rejection by someone they love, says the rabbi. “Unless you surprise me and tell me that President Obama will be in the audience, I will not tell the government how to respond to terrorism,” Kushner told the AJP, but he will talk about individual responses to terrorism at Temple’s “An Evening with Rabbi Harold Kushner.”

Kushner is rabbi laureate of Temple Israel in the Boston suburb of Natick, Mass. After serving that congregation for 24 years, he turned to full-time writing and lecturing in 1986.

In “Conquering Fear,” his 12th book, Kushner illuminates resources from Jewish tradition, “aspects of Jewish liturgy that comfort and frighten us,” he says. “The most familiar line that frightens us is in the Rosh Hashanah service, ‘It shall be determined who shall live and who shall die.’ It’s the centerpiece of the [High Holidays] liturgy.”

When the Jewish New Year begins, says Kushner, we’re aware of the good things that may happen, such as a child getting married or the possibility of winning the lottery. On the other hand, someone in your family may get sick, or you may suffer myriad other catastrophes.

The question is, he says, “how can you muster the faith to be ready for the unknown?”

Kushner also addresses the art of living in “When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough,” which was published in 2002 and awarded the Christopher Medal for its contribution to the exaltation of the human spirit. In 1995, he was honored by the Christophers, a Roman Catholic organization, as one of 50 people who had made the world a better place during the previous 50 years. He was twice nominated for the Templeton Prize, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Religion.

Six of Kushner’s books have been New York Times best-sellers, including his 2004 meditation on the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is My Shepherd.”

Kushner, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a graduate of Columbia University. He was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1960 and also holds a Ph.D. in Bible from the seminary. He has received six honorary doctorates. For four years, Kushner edited the magazine Conservative Judaism. He has taught at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Through his books and lectures, his religious and inspirational teachings have extended to society at large. In today’s world, says Kushner, “If we inhibit what we do in our lives, it allows the terrorists to win. Instead of trying to avoid places terrorists might go, we need to do what the Israelis do or what Londoners did two and a half years after their subway bombing.” His overriding message is, and will be in Tucson, “we must live our lives bravely.”

Tickets are $100 for the fundraising dinner and talk; $25 for the talk only, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Sponsorships are available for the dinner. For more information, contact Jill Rich at 349-0174 or jbr@dakotacom.net.