Rabbi Martin Meyer Hosts ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Temple 1

THE LATE MORNING SUNLIGHT filtered down through opalescent windows and settled on the soft features of Rabbi Martin A. Meyer. At 10:45 a.m. on the cool morning of Saturday, October 12, 1912, he stood upon his pulpit, hand-carved from weathered oak, and looked out over two thousand members of his congregation. They filled the majestic sanctuary of San Francisco’s Temple Emanu-El.

The massive Gothic Revival synagogue, built in the 1860s, was one of the largest vaulted chambers ever constructed in the state of California. Two octagonal towers shot up at the temple’s front corners on Sutter Street, supporting bronze-plated Russian domes that impressed themselves on the city’s skyline. The vaults and the domes had come crashing down on the fateful morning of April 18, 1906, and the temple had burned to its skeleton in the fires. But just sixteen months later Temple Emanu-El rose again from the ashes: squat towers now stood where the domes had been, a ceiling of Oregon pine replaced the vaults, and chandeliers hung down in the shape of six-pointed stars.

“It is a privilege, and a very high privilege indeed,” Rabbi Meyer said, “to welcome in our midst this morning Abdul Baha, a great teacher of our age and generation… . Abdul Baha is the representative of one of the religious systems of life, and it appeals to us Jews, because we Jews feel that we have fathered that ideal throughout the centuries of men.”

California 2

On Saturday, October 12, He presented His memorable address to an audience of 2,000 in the Temple Emmanu-El, emphasizing “the truth of His Holiness Christ, the reality of Islam, the oneness of humanity and universal peace.”

The Fundamental Unity of Religious Thought 3

The Master’s address at the Jewish Temple was unique and magnificent.313 His talk, which was delivered to some two thousand Jews, concerned the truth of Christ, the reality of Islam, the oneness of humanity and universal peace. This gathering was clear evidence of the power and majesty of the Center of the Covenant. Indeed, it can be counted as a miracle. The proofs supporting the truth of the reality of Christ and Muhammad, the Messengers of God, flowed from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s lips with such majesty and authority that all were dumbfounded. After His talk, many humbly came to see Him to express their gratitude, except for a very few diehards who left in dismay. The chairman of the meeting, considered to be an eminent and learned Jew, introduced the Master:

It is our privilege to welcome in our midst ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a great teacher of our age and generation. The heart of the Orient seems to be essentially religious, and now and then, out of the heart of the Orient, the fundamental religious message for the world is stated and restated. This century is very great and this age is the age of the maturity of the world. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is the representative of one of the religious systems which appeals to us Jews, because we feel that we have fathered that idea throughout the centuries. This morning He will speak to us, the followers and the children of Israel, in His native tongue through an interpreter, on ‘The Fundamental Unity of Religious Thought’. I am certain that whatever He says will be of great significance to us. …

‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave this address in the afternoon at the home of Mrs Goodall and Mrs Cooper:

Today we spoke in the Jewish temple. You saw how it was proven that Christ was the Word of God and Muhammad the Messenger of God. From the beginning of Christianity and Islam up to the present day, no one has spoken thus, proving the validity of Christ and Muhammad in a Jewish temple and in a manner to which no one took exception. Rather, most were appreciative and content. This is none other than the assistance of Bahá’u’lláh.

The effect and influence of the address were such that from then on there was evidence of unity and communication between the Christians and Jews. They even made plans to visit each other’s places of worship to give talks about the unity of peoples and religions. Whenever they met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá or attended Bahá’í gatherings, they expressed their gratitude from the depths of their hearts for this great Cause and its new teachings.

Talk at Temple Emmanu-El, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 4

The greatest bestowal of God in the world of humanity is religion, for assuredly the divine teachings of religion are above all other sources of instruction and development to man. Religion confers upon man eternal life and guides his footsteps in the world of morality. It opens the doors of unending happiness and bestows everlasting honor upon the human kingdom. It has been the basis of all civilization and progress in the history of mankind.

We will, therefore, investigate religion, seeking from an unprejudiced standpoint to discover whether it is the source of illumination, the cause of development and the animating impulse of all human advancement. We will investigate independently, free from the restrictions of dogmatic beliefs, blind imitations of ancestral forms and the influence of mere human opinion; for as we enter this question, we will find some who declare that religion is a cause of uplift and betterment in the world, while others assert just as positively that it is a detriment and a source of degradation to mankind. We must give these questions thorough and impartial consideration so that no doubt or uncertainty may linger in our minds regarding them.

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “Rabbi Martin Meyer Hosts ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Temple Emanu-El.” 239 Days in America, 12 Oct. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/10/12/rabbi-martin-a-meyer-hosts-abdul-baha-longest-address-in-america/. [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 168. [return]
  3. ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=8#section203 [return]
  4. ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 361. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/27#592795487 [return]