Rabbi Thurman Collection
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During his early ministry in Wilmington, Rabbi Thurman actively identified with the religious, civic and cultural life of the community. One of the organizers of the Wilmington Round Table of Christians and Jews, he served as moderator for the weekly round table radio broadcasts. He organized and served as director of the Community Forum of Wilmington; the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Associated Charities of New Hanover County; the Chairman of the public relations committee of the Community Chest; Chairman of the Rotary Club International Committee; a member of the board of the Salvation Army; member of the USO Council; member of the Wilmington Symphony Society; member of the Board of the Wilmington Art Museum; and member of the Board of the Little Theatre (Thalian Society).
Rabbi Thurman conducted monthly book reviews in the Temple of Israel under the auspices of the Ladies Concordia Society, the North Carolina Sorosis and the YWCA-USO; and conducted public speaking classes sponsored by the YMCA.
He was instrumental in planning and arranging, with the cooperation of Christian colleagues, interfaith seminars on the Old and New Testaments which were held in the Temple and in several churches. For nine years Rabbi Thurman occupied the pulpit on one of the African American churches the last Sunday in January, and that service was referred to as "Rabbi Thurman's Sunday Service."
During this period of time, Rabbi Thurman ministered to the Jewish families in communities throughout the state prior to the establishment of the Circuit Riding Rabbi's project, visiting once a month in communities like Wallace, Lumberton, Whiteville, and others, delivering lectures on Jewish history, Jewish literature, Jewish customs and ceremonies, the Torah Talmud, prayer, etc., and also teaching children. He addressed civic clubs, church men's organizations, and women's auxiliaries in the small communities at the request of the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith.
Thurman became the Rabbi for Wilmington's Temple of Israel, the oldest Jewish temple in North Carolina, in 1936, and served until 1945. After leaving Wilmington in 1945, Rabbi Thurman ministered to congregations in Alexandria, Louisiana; Martinsville, Virginia; Fort Pierce, Florida; and Dothan, Alabama. He retired from the active rabbinate in 1975, moving to Danville, Virginia.
He was invited to return to Wilmington and to resume the spiritual leadership of the Temple of Israel in January 1977, until his retirement in 1983 after 52 years of active service. After his retirement, Rabbi Thurman was instrumental in introducing adult classes in Hebrew and Yiddish, inaugurated "Your Invitation to Learning," a series of lectures by UNCW professors, and himself presented reviews of Shakespeare plays on "Evenings with Shakespeare."
Rabbi Thurman died on December 30, 1985 after a short illness and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery.
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