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A Builder of Bridges

Lenny Zakim was a civil rights activist in New England for over twenty years. As regional director for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, he was quick to address incidents of hate crimes or violence. Lenny was also celebrated for his work countering bigotry in all forms.

In the early 80's, after an annual Martin Luther King breakfast, Lenny proposed to then Newton Mayor Theodore Mann and Rabbi Richard Yellin that they start a Black-Jewish Seder. With assistance from the Reverend Charles Stith of Union United Methodist Church in the South End of Boston, the event became a success. "It started with a call from him, out of the blue, about me getting involved in a leadership capacity in the Greater Boston civil rights community," recalls Stith. "I was concerned about stretching myself too thin… But he was really convincing about what it is to do the right thing." This year, over 650 people attended this major interfaith Seder at the New Covenant Church, in Mattapan.

Lenny also worked closely with the Boston-based Cardinal Bernard Law to improve the area's Jewish-Catholic relations, eventually accompanying Law to Rome in 1985, where in a homily at the Vatican, the Cardinal spoke out against anti-Semitism. At the Anti-Defamation League's national meeting, held in Boston in 1998, Law told the delegates, "From time to time, there are overt expressions of anti-Catholic sentiments in the area. It is disappointing, but not surprising that often the first, and sometimes only response" comes from Zakim. In November of 1999, Pope John Paul II named Zakim a Knight of St. Gregory, an honor bestowed by the Vatican upon lay people for exemplary service to humanity.

In commemoration of Lenny's ability to build bridges between people of different faiths and cultures, Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci announced in June of 2000 his intention to name the new bridge across the Charles River, The Leonard P. Zakim Freedom Bridge. The majestic $100 million bridge is the centerpiece of the Big Dig, and will replace the upper and lower decks of Interstate 93 as it passes through downtown Boston. When the span is opened to traffic in 2002, it will be the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world. Governor Cellucci adds, "Just as this bridge will one day become a part of the daily rhythms of our community, we hope the lessons Lenny Zakim taught us, and the shining example he set, will one day become an inseparable part of the character of our community."

Program Description
Lenny Zakim
David Eisenberg, MD
Ken Anderson, MD
Michael Lerner, PhD
Peter Churchill, LMT
Help YourSelf
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Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

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