News Highlights Supreme Court Whistleblower and Former Right-Wing Evangelical Activist Turns New Page with Hebrew College
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Contact: Wendy Linden
Chief Marketing Officer, Hebrew College 617.559.8785
NEWTON, MA (October 4, 2023) — Once a trusted confidant of the conservative Supreme Court justices, Hebrew College Visiting Professor Rev. Rob Schenck made headlines in 2022 for an interview with the New York Times and a letter written to Chief Justice John Roberts revealing he was leaked the results of a 2014 landmark case on reproductive rights several weeks before the court announced its decision. Schenck is currently working on a book exposing how he and others recruited wealthy religious right operatives to exert undue influence on conservative Supreme Court justices as part of his new mission to repair the damage done to our country’s democracy and social fabric. As part of his teshuvah (repentance in Hebrew) process, Schenck, who now identifies as a progressive evangelical voice of dissent, will join filmmaker Abigail E. Disney on October 15th in conversation about his personal journey of moral change in “Religious Leadership & Public Repair” at Hebrew College in Newton, MA, where he was recently named Visiting Scholar of Christianity & Religious Leadership.
The conversation, moderated by Rabbi Or Rose, Founding Director of Hebrew College’s Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership, will include clips from Disney’s Emmy Award winning documentary, to explore his evolution as a minister, his relationship with Disney, and their reflections on the need to forge relationships across divides. “It was life-changing for me and forced me to look at myself and my religious community in a way I had avoided for decades,” said Schenck on his experience with the film.
(Pictured: Rev. Rob Schenck confronts then Vice President Mike Pence at a White House event in 2018. “Our country needs you to exercise moral courage,” Schenck told Pence, who responded, “That’s easier said than done.”)
He has voluntarily cooperated with numerous investigations into corruption at the High Court, including testifying before Congress.
“We are living at yet another time in human history when we need religious leaders to be bold and brave in confronting the unethical and injurious behavior of public figures in politics, law, and religion. We need reformation, which comes at great cost, but we have no other option than to take risks because the consequences of not doing so pose the greatest threat to all of us.,” said Schenck about religious leadership and moral courage.
“Reverend Rob Schenck’s presence as a visiting scholar on our faculty represents an important and exciting challenge and opportunity for all of us. On a personal level, his story challenges those of us engaged in religious and communal leadership to reflect on the impact of our actions and consider places where we might need to undertake our own processes of teshuva and repair. On a communal level, his prominence as a leader in the Evangelical Christian Church opens the door to new opportunities for learning and dialogue across both spiritual and political difference—at a time when we urgently need to address the deepening polarization that is dividing this country and so much of the world. I am inspired by Rev. Schenck’s personal journey and by his moral and religious leadership and we are honored to welcome him to the Hebrew College
community,” said Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld.
Disney (left) is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker who won numerous awards for her film on Schenck, The Armor of Light. Her latest film, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales, which she co-directed with Kathleen Hughes, made its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. It is currently available on demand. In addition to filmmaking, as a philanthropist and social activist Disney advocates for systemic change in different areas of society. “Abby is a multi- talented person, who bravely and compassionately invites us to examine our values and priorities, and to act on them in concrete ways. She is a prophetic voice who both agitates and encourages us to be better.” added Rose.
The Armor of Light captures Schenck’s journey of conscience, as he began to question the consistency of the pro-gun and pro-life stances of the far-right evangelical movement that he represented at the time. This would eventually lead to Schenck’s break from evangelical orthodoxy on guns, abortion, and the public display of religious symbols.
“Religious Leadership & Public Repair” takes place October 15 from 7:30-9 pm at Hebrew College in Newton, MA. The event is free and open to media but requires registration. Register here.
About Hebrew College
Based in Newton, Massachusetts, Hebrew College is reimagining Jewish learning and leadership for an interconnected world, making our lives more meaningful, our communities more vibrant, and our world more whole. Learn more at hebrewcollege.edu.