New Book on Rabbi Sanders Inspires Unique Dialogue for Sanders Lecture

The 2018 Rabbi Ira Sanders Distinguished Lecture of the Central Arkansas Library System will honor Rabbi Ira Sanders himself, as two expert scholars engage in a lively dialogue on his inspirational work and legacy. The lecture will take place at Temple B’nai Israel, 3700 North Rodney Parham Road, at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 4. A reception and book signing will follow the program, and copies of the book will be available for purchase. The event is free and open to the public.

Rabbi Sanders was a member of the library Board of Trustees for over 40 years, but his contribution to social justice, to the Little Rock community, and to the whole region stretched far beyond his library service.

James L. Moses, author of Just and Righteous Causes: Rabbi Ira Sanders and the Fight for Racial and Social Justice in Arkansas, 1926-1963, will join Mark K. Bauman, editor of the journal Southern Jewish History, for a dialogue focusing on the life and work of Rabbi Sanders.

Their dialogue coincides with the launch of the new book by James Moses, just released from the University of Arkansas Press. Moses and Bauman will discuss Sanders’s lifelong work for social and racial justice in Arkansas and its relation to the efforts of other southern rabbis during the civil rights movement.

Rabbi Ira Sanders built an unforgettable legacy through his passionate advocacy for social justice and the many initiatives he founded to better the lives of others. He was a founder of the Little Rock School of Social Work, the Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind and the Urban League of Greater Little Rock, where he served as an executive and advisory board member for more than 30 years. Dr. Sanders also served as rabbi at Congregation B’nai Israel for 38 years, which makes the congregation’s building a natural setting for this unique lecture. Sanders, who lived in Little Rock from 1926 until his death in 1985, was an outspoken supporter of racial integration, equal opportunity, and women’s rights.

James Moses states: “Rabbi Ira Sanders was a warrior for social and racial justice throughout his life. He took these words from Isaiah strongly to heart: Learn to do well: seek Justice – relieve the oppressed.

Through a lifetime devoted to this moral imperative, Moses says, “Sanders made a real difference in the lives of many thousands over an influential career that spanned the eras of the Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and beyond. Sanders’s inimitable career gives us a window through which we can understand the history of Arkansas and the South through the tumultuous 20th Century. I look forward to sharing his singular story – and hearing more stories about him – in Little Rock on November 4.”

Mark K. Bauman praises the new book by Moses: “James Moses has written a trailblazing book on a true Jewish American hero. Ira Sanders was involved in the civil rights movement long before other people were. He was devoted to a variety of causes to help people in need. Sanders is well-deserving of the marvelous tribute that Moses has given him through this biography.”

Bauman is also enthusiastic about the upcoming dialogue. “I very much look forward to relating the work of Sanders to the work of other Reform Rabbis in the South and to sharing these remarkable experiences with an energetic and informed audience.”

Rabbi Barry Block, current leader of Congregation B’nai Israel, sees continuing value in the legacy of Rabbi Sanders. “In collaboration with interfaith clergy partners, members of Congregation B’nai Israel, and diverse leaders throughout the community, Rabbi Sanders transformed Arkansas for the better,” he says. Rabbi Block believes that people of all belief systems can be inspired to bold action against today’s injustice by the example of Rabbi Sanders.

The 2018 Rabbi Ira Sanders Distinguished Lecture is sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System and Congregation B’nai Israel and co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Arkansas and the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.

For more information about the Rabbi Ira Sanders Distinguished Lecture, contact Madelyn Ganos at or (501) 918-3030.