Maurice Davis

American rabbi

Maurice Davis (15 December 192116 December 1993) was an American Rabbi and human rights activist. He was a past director of the American Family Foundation, now known as the International Cultic Studies Association. Davis was the rabbi of the Jewish Community Center of White Plains, New York, and a regular contributor to The Jewish Post and Opinion, where he had a column. He served on the President's Commission on Equal Opportunity, in the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration.

We who dare to call God, God, must begin to learn the challenge which that word contains.
"One God over all" has to mean "One brotherhood over all."

QuotesEdit

 
The path of segregation leads to lynching. The path of anti-Semitism leads to Auschwitz. The path of cults leads to Jonestown. We ignore this fact at our peril.
 
I keep thinking what happens when the power of love is twisted into the love of power.
  • It’s frightening what these Moonies can do to the family unit … I get letters from parents all over the country telling me the same story … The kids are swept along by his outfit and then taken away for a few days to a "workshop." By the time the parents see their kids again — if they can manage to see them — the kids are starry-eyed and ready to take on anyone who disagrees with them. It’s a form of hypnotism. There is something very unhealthy going on.
  • I keep thinking what happens when the power of love is twisted into the love of power. … When he bought our temple we had an eternal light going. Jim asked us to leave it. He wanted to keep it burning as a sign of our friendship and what we stood for. All last night I kept wondering, where did it go out?

Brotherhood Postponed (1965)Edit

 
We came to the bridge which had marked the terminal point of two previous attempts. On one of those attempts, King had turned his people back at this spot. On the other attempt, the state troopers had ridden into the crowd with clubs, and bullwhips, and tear gas.
 
Dear friends, brotherhood has been postponed for a very long time. Not by the coldness of the weather, but by the coldness of the heart. The task of religion, your religion and mine, is to practice brotherhood, not talk about it.
"Brotherhood Postponed" The March from Selma, Alabama (21 March 1965) — his sermon after a Selma to Montgomery protest march with Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • I realize that it is a dangerous practice, perhaps even subversive, to talk about brotherhood in March. It is the kind of un-American activity that could lead to a breakdown in our entire national way of life. Someone may begin to love his mother on a day other than the second Sunday in May or eat turkey on a day other than the fourth Thursday in November, or worship G-d on a day other than the Sabbath. I suppose, however, that these fears of mine are unrealistic, and I should renew my faith that we shall once again return to normalcy. I cannot recall what it was I planned to say last month. Too many events have happened too rapidly and too enormously in the past two weeks.
    Whatever it was that I might have said would be tonight something less than relevant.
    During the past week alone we sent two men into space where they guided their ship, changed their course and their orbit, circled the earth three times, and then apologized for landing 60 miles away from their target. During the past week alone we watched live television shots of the moon as Ranger 9 plunged into that increasingly abused star at the precise area planned for impact. And, during the past week, we witnessed in Alabama a scene more stirring, more filled with signs and portents for our world than any of our engineering feats of science. Last month, when the snows came, I jokingly announced that I would speak tonight on the subject, "Brotherhood Postponed." All I had in mind was the snow, but that was a month ago. Last week I announced from this pulpit that I would go to Selma, Alabama, and it was there that I witnessed the results of "Brotherhood Postponed" in a way I never before quite fully comprehended. I should like to talk to you this evening about that trip. It would make the title "Brotherhood Postponed" more accurate than I had planned for it to be.
  • It was a deeply moving, deeply religious, and totally non-sectarian service. Rabbi Heschel read from our Bible, a Protestant minister read from the New Testament, and a Catholic Priest offered a beautifully moving prayer. Then Reverend King began again to weave his magic spell. Nothing but the word "magic" can quite describe what it is he does to so many. When King speaks, you are not an audience. You are participants. And when he finished we were ready to march.
  • We came to the bridge which had marked the terminal point of two previous attempts. On one of those attempts, King had turned his people back at this spot. On the other attempt, the state troopers had ridden into the crowd with clubs, and bullwhips, and tear gas. We paused there a moment, just to remember, and then we moved out on the highway. It was a divided highway, and the North side was reserved for us. Every few yards a soldier stood with a rifle and bayonet. Army cars drove ahead of us and behind us. In the air five helicopters circled endlessly, occasionally swooping down just above a clump of trees or bushes. Radios and walkie-talkies crackled orders back and forth. State troopers drove by in squad cars, two to a car. One drove, and the other quite ostentatiously took pictures of the marches. This is an Alabama form of intimidation. I kept remembering that these were the same state troopers who had two weeks earlier had ridden mercilessly into a defenseless mass of people! I marveled again at the power of the federal government whose presence stood between us and another massacre.
  • A seven year old boy joined my line. I asked him, "What are you doing?" He said, "Marching." I asked him, "Why are you marching?" He looked up at me and said, "For my freedom."
  • Once we stopped at the camp site several things began to occur to me. The first was that I had neither eaten nor drunk anything for more than twelve hours. I had not even sat down once in those twelve hours. My left foot had blistered painfully. And I had experienced a religious exaltation which I had never witnessed before.
  • At 7:00 A.M. I flew into Indianapolis.
    Reporters and television men interviewed me most of Monday. Monday night my life was threatened. Not in Selma. Not in Montgomery. Not in Atlanta. In Indianapolis. Protective measures has to be taken for my children, and my home. On Tuesday night the phone began to ring at 2:00 A.M. Each time I answered it, I was greeted with silence, until I took the phone off the hook and fell asleep. Some of the mail I have received is filled with unbelievable filth, ugly statements, and — interestingly enough — disclosing knowledge about my life, including my previous pulpit in Lexington, Kentucky.
    Some of the letters I have received are beautiful beyond the power of words to describe, and some of the phone calls have been so moving that they brought tears to my eyes.
    Brotherhood postponed. Dear friends, brotherhood has been postponed for a very long time. Not by the coldness of the weather, but by the coldness of the heart. The task of religion, your religion and mine, is to practice brotherhood, not talk about it.
  • People keep asking me why I decided to go to Alabama. I’m not sure that even now I know the answer. I think I went to Alabama to worship God! I know that is what I did on U.S. Highway 80, along with 6,000 men and women, boys and girls, each of whom in his own way was doing the same thing.
    Last night we learned that one of us had been murdered on that highway. I think all of us died a little bit at the news. This morning the President announced that four members of the Ku Klux Klan had been arrested, and he added these words: "If Klansmen hear my voice today, let it be both an appeal — and a warning — to get out of the Klan now, and return to a decent society — before it is too late!"
    Brotherhood postponed. The time has come, and it has been a long time in coming. The time has come to worship with our lives as with our lips, in the streets as in the sanctuaries. And we who dare to call God, God, must begin to learn the challenge which that word contains.
    "One God over all" has to mean "One brotherhood over all."
    And I know a bunch of anonymous people for whom it means precisely that. Brotherhood postponed does not mean brotherhood destroyed. It is for us to see that it never, never does! Amen.

Address on the Cult Phenomenon in the United States (1979)Edit

Joint-Congressional Proceedings, "Information Meeting on the Cult Phenomenon in the United States" (5 February 1979), p. 74-80, chaired by Senator Bob Dole.
  • I am a Jew, and I am a Rabbi, and I cherish — as do my people — the grandeur of the First Amendment. That amendment prevents, and properly so, the government from investigating the beliefs of any group that calls itself religious; but it does not prevent the government from investigating the activities of any group, whatever its name might be.
    No man and no group in this country is above the law. Indeed, for 1000 years and more my people have lived with the Hebrew phrase, "נָא דְּמַלְכוּתָא דִּינָא ." [Dina d'malkhuta dina] — "The law of the land is the law."
    Unless that law is upheld and enforced, we all of us are victims and we Jews know this very well.
  • We are concerned, gentlemen. We are deeply concerned with cults. So let me begin by offering not a definition of cults since everyone has said you must not do this, but let me offer you a description of cults.
    It seems to me that any cult has to have the following characteristics:
    One, a dictatorial leader, often called charismatic, who has total and unlimited control over his group.
    Two, followers who have abdicated the right to say no, the right to pass judgment, the right to protest, who have sold their souls for the security of slavery.
    Three, possibly the most dangerous doctrine known to our civilization, that the end justifies the means
    ; therefore, any thing from the Moonies' heavenly deception to the violence of Synanon to the theft of government documents by Scientology, to the brutality of the Children of God, all the way to the murder-suicide of Jonestown, all is permitted because the ends justify the means and there is no one there to tell them no.
    Four, unlimited funds. The Unification Church with its some $50 million brought in each year by its mobile fund raising teams is duplicated by the Hare Krishnas dressing as Santa Claus or the Children of God sending out their women as fishers of men.
    Five, the instilling of fear, hatred, and suspicion of everyone outside the camp, of the entire outside world in order to keep the victims in line.
    You put them all together gentlemen … You have a prescription for violence, for death, for destruction. It is a formula that fits the Nazi Youth Movement as accurately as it describes the Unification Church. … Or the People's Temple.
  • I do not address myself to the responses in the audience. I do not address myself to their religious beliefs. That right they have, and I defend it; but I will not defend their right to violate the law of this land or the mind of the young.
    During the last five years I have helped rescue 128 young men and women without ever once violating the law, without ever once resorting to force or restraint; but I tell you what I have done: I have peeled off the surface and entered into an underworld of madness, and you have to see what I have seen to understand the horror of it all.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, every path leads somewhere. That is what a path is all about. The path of segregation leads to lynching every time. The path of antisemitism leads to Auschwitz every time. The path of the cults leads to Jonestown — and we ignore it at our peril.
    • Variant:
    • We know, and we must never forget, that every path leads somewhere. The path of segregation leads to lynching. The path of anti-Semitism leads to Auschwitz. The path of cults leads to Jonestown. We ignore this fact at our peril.
      • As quoted in "How Many Jonestowns Will It Take?" in The Cult Observer (1992), p. 123

Quotes about DavisEdit

  • A great and gentle radiance has left our scene with the death of Rabbi Maurice Davis. He was one of the people who first brought me into the circle of those devoted to helping cult victims. His compassion and vision were inspiring. He saw clearly the dangers which awaited those who lost their free will to totalism. I remember vividly one of my early contacts with Rabbi Davis, when an attorney for a destructive group was trying to get him to explain what he had said to a member of that group when she returned briefly to her family and agreed to speak with him. "I prayed with her," he said. "I prayed that she remember the teachings of her youth and her love for her family ." The lawyer for the group was taken aback. "Is that all you did?", he said. "Was that all it was?" … "Yes," Rabbi Davis answered, "the rest was up to her." It was that blend of hope, vision, and respect for the judgment of others that became the cornerstone of the American Family Foundation's ideals. We owe much to Rabbi Davis and we honor him with our continued commitment.

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