Rabbi James Rudin: “Do Something Different”

By Gene Mitchell of LeadingAge, the Association of Nonprofit Providers of Aging Services

For Older Americans Month, we are recognizing older adults who are “Aging Unbound.” Reposted with permission. Please find the original article here.

“It’s very easy to get stale, to go into neutral instead of staying in drive,” says Rabbi James Rudin, a resident at Cypress Cove, a LeadingAge member in Ft. Myers, FL.

For Rudin, 88, “staying in drive” is a natural continuation of a lifetime of work and a notable career. He is an internationally known leader in interfaith relations, having served as interreligious affairs director for the American Jewish Committee (AJC) for more than 30 years. He still serves AJC as a senior adviser and sits on the organization’s Board of Governors.

Rudin’s career has involved endless international travel, relationships with popes and other religious and political leaders, and activism on religious tolerance and human rights. In November, Rudin received The Papal Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory for his life’s work in building Catholic-Jewish relations. He is only the third American rabbi to receive the honor.

Though Rudin says he’s retired, he remains active as a writer, public speaker, and historian. His fifth book, “The People in the Room: Rabbis, Nuns, Pastors, Popes, and Presidents,” published last year, tells the inside story of the significant issues and relationships at the heart of his life’s work. He writes regularly for Religion News Service and serves as an advisor for the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Saint Leo University near Tampa. Rudin was a co-founder of the Center in 1998.

“Though I’ve been lecturing at a lot of college campuses, and a lot of churches and synagogues since then, it’s slowed down a little bit as I get a little older,” Rudin says. “But I still write columns and commentaries and blogs. In a sense, my hobby is also my vocation, which is writing. And thank goodness for Zoom. I’m doing a lot of webinars. I’m continuing the Christian-Jewish relations, but in a different way. And now I get to pick and choose where to speak, and what I want to write about.”

At Cypress Cove, Rudin’s latest project is a lecture series on American history. He recently completed three presentations comparing prominent American generals–Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant, Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, and Omar Bradley and George Patton. This fall, he plans a new lecture series that will cover “three great trials that transformed America”: The Scopes Monkey Trial, the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, and the trial of the Chicago Seven.

For people at Rudin’s stage of life, he says, “going into a cocoon or hibernating” must be avoided: “What you have to do is keep up, maybe not with every trend or every new rockstar that comes along, but you have to be aware of the political, religious, economic, or cultural climate, which is changing. We all had our careers, our past stories, but be aware of what’s going on now and take on new projects; do something different.”

For a full picture of Rudin’s remarkable career, see this profile article from LeadingAge Florida, and visit his website.

LeadingAge’s observance of Older Americans Month for 2023 puts a monthlong focus on residents’ and clients’ diverse aging experiences to help combat stereotypes about growing older. We are also advocating for a White House Office on Aging Policy, which will provide important federal-level oversight and coordination across national programs and policies for older adults.

Visit our Older Americans Month: Aging Unbound page for members-only turnkey communications resources along with guidance for creating your own communications strategy.

Do you have a story to tell? The LeadingAge Story Collector, powered by Greystone, makes it easy to submit yours. Try it now.

Rabbi A. James Rudin is the American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser and the author of “The People In The Room: Rabbis, Nuns, Pastors, Popes, and Presidents” (ISBN 1948575566).

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