Fr. Oliver Herbel
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Home page: http://holyresurrection.areavoices.com
Posts by Fr. Oliver Herbel
One way in which Orthodox Christians have been characterized by various sociologists and even Orthodox themselves is to refer to Orthodoxy’s ghettoization and/or refuge-seeking. I do not believe that is the entire story for American Orthodoxy, not even earlier in the 20th century. This is because much of my research as of late has been into people and events that contradicts the view that refuge-seeking is all there is to American Orthodoxy. Nonetheless, and despite whatever peer-reviewed publications I might offer to the contrary, there is most certainly truth to it.
In addition to the obvious cultural factors (English was not the native language of Eastern European and Middle Eastern immigrants and cultural mores differed), flashes of anti-immigrant violence directed against Orthodox Christians helped create this scenario.
The most well known example may be the anti-Greek riots of South Omaha, Nebraska in 1909. The instigating event causing the riot was a Saturday night scuffle between a police officer and a local Greek man. The officer had followed the young Greek man into the home of a lady who allegedly had a reputation for illicit behavior. A scuffle ensued and the policeman was shot and killed. The following morning, when the bells of the local Greek Orthodox Church began ringing, a mob gathered together and ransacked the Greek section of town. The Greek Town of South Omaha burned to the ground and 1,200 Greeks fled. The precipitating cause was labor tensions, as the Greeks had arrived during a labor shortage and were competing for jobs. Moreover, they were willing to work for lower wages.
Indeed, Greek Orthodox and other Eastern European Orthodox immigrants were often in the middle of labor disputes. For example, in Montana, citizens of Great Falls held meetings for the purpose of driving the Greeks from their town. On another occasion, near Mt. Home, Idaho, some one hundred Greeks cleared land of sagebrush and instead of being paid were run off in the middle of the night by fifty masked men. Nor was the American reception of Greek Immigrants contingent simply upon labor concerns. There was a religious dimension to it as well, at least amongst those involved in missionary movements. American anti-immigration and ethnic sterotypes also affected Slavic immigrants. In Desloge, Missouri, for example, a 1917 labor riot drove out many of the Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants (who had previously converted from Eastern Catholicism to Orthodoxy).
Of course, it was not just Orthodox who encountered this. This was a problem for Eastern Catholics from the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well. And, really, America has a pattern of reacting this way. Each new wave of immigration encounters this. In the case of Eastern Europeans, however, the language and cultural distinctions were such that one way of reacting to the situation was to rally around one’s culture, utilizing the local parish as the cultural center. As I said earlier, though, I don’t believe that’s the entire story to Orthodox history, but it is certainly a part of it.
 An overview of the riot may be found in Alice Scourby, The Greek Americans (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1984), 33-4 and Theodore Saloutos, “Cultural Persistance and Change: Greeks in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain West, 1890-1970,” Pacific Historical Review 49 (1980): 85-8.
 Scourby, 34.
 See Peter Carl Haskell, “American Civil Religion and the Greek Immigration: Religious Confrontation Before the First World War,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 18:4 (1974):166-192.
 Karel D. Bicha, “Hunkies: Stereotyping the Slavic Immigrants, 1890-1920,” Journal of American Ethnic History 2:1 (1982): 16-38.
In the middle of the twentieth century, Fr. Boris Burden (+1973) played important roles in American Orthodoxy. It was he and Fr. Michael Gelsinger who rallied behind the attempt in the late 20s and early 30s to unite Orthodoxy and they were the key players, together with George E. Phillies (a Greek attorney) in establishing the Federated Orthodox Greek Catholic Primary Jurisdictions in America, which I’ve discussed on here before. He and Fr. Michael also donated a large number of books to the university in Buffalo, starting their Byzantine collection.
Unfortunately, Fr. Boris also seemed to find his way into the courts. I haven’t had a chance to try to track down this case, but the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Saturday, April 9, 1932, lists Joseph McKoe v. Boris Burden as a case scheduled for the 8th District Court on April 11th. As I said, I don’t know what drove that case, but in another case, in 1924, Burden was taken to court for getting into a fist fight. Here’s the newspaper article from back then (Brooklyn Eagle, October 14, 1924). By the way, raising a fist against another, if you’re a priest, breaks canon law. Though I am aware of economia being extended when a priest was defending someone else, in this case, that is not the case. It is an old fashioned, immature fist fight. So, sometimes in American Orthodoxy, those who have worked the hardest have also had serious character flaws. I suppose that’s to be expected in a frontier, marginalized religion, but it is worth remembering nonetheless.
PRIEST HOLDS OWN
IN FISTIC BATTLE
Following a violent altercation last midnight between Hugh Yeo, 23 years old. a taxi drlver, living at 2155 65th st., and Boris Burden of 417 8th St., starters for the Yellow Taxi Cab Company,- at their stand at Ave. 1 and the Brighton line, Patrolman John Maxwell took both men to the Parkville station, where they were charged with disorderly conduct.
Yeo spent the night in the cells. Burden obtained bail. When he appeared before Magistrate Eilperln in the Flatbush Court this morning, the taxi starter of the night before, a tall, good-looking young man of 26. with blond, wavy hair. wore the black gown and round clerical collar of a priest. “Yon could have knocked me over with a feather,” said Yeo, when his fellow prisoner explained to the Court that during the day he was the Rev. Father Boris Burden of the Eastern Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. He said that he is attached to the general staff of the cathedral at 15 E. 97th St.. Manhattan, and added that he has been working on a sociological study of immigrants. Fred G. Ritta. counsel for the Yellow Taxi Cnb Company, defended the priest taxi starter against the disorderly conduct charge, to which he pleaded not guilty. The client, at the instigation of his employers, also preferred a charge of assault against Yeo. According to Yeo, the priest-starter gave as good as he took, both in blows and verbal insults.
Thus far, on the third Thursday of each month this year, I have written a post concerning Orthodoxy and higher education in America. I conclude this half-year mini-series by announcing that the authors and titles of the papers to be delivered at this fall’s symposium are now online. In addition to the four keynote presentations, we will have fourteen other papers:
The topics, institutions represented, and authors speaking are all diverse in a most intriguing way and a testament to the breadth of American Orthodox history. I am very truly thankful to Seraphim Dankaert at Princeton Theological Seminary and to all the scholars who submitted abstracts for this year’s event. It is my hope and prayer that this will become a regular gathering for SOCHA and all who may be interested in American Orthodox history.
I hope my adding this post will not damper people’s interest in Fr. Andrew’s book. I have listened to some of his podcasts and they are good. Nonetheless, it’s time for my regular monthly post . Each monthly post in 2011 has concentrated on Orthodoxy and higher education in America and this one will continue that theme, though not in quite the same way.
In this post, I thought I’d mention the People’s University in Chicago and put out a “call for more information.” I do not know much about this school and therefore would greatly welcome any reader from Chicago (or elsewhere) who has more information on this. What I do know is that it lasted from 1918 until 1920. It was a night school that met in public school classrooms with the twofold purpose of Americanizing Russian immigrants and teaching Russian to Americans for business purposes. Boris Bakhmeteff, the ambassador for the provisional government in Russia, had allocated $10,000 from embassy funds to start this venture. The financial aspects were overseen directly by the Russian consul, Antoine Volkoff. Although this venture did not last I find it quite intriguing. Perhaps others know more about it than the bare-bone basics I’ve been able to find. I should note I haven’t scoured the Bakhmeteff archives as I maybe should, though a quick skim through the contents (as available online) did not jog anything in my mind. Nor have I had a chance to figure out what archives in Chicago might contain information on this enterprise. If someone knows better, please do let me know. This is no do or die matter but I suspect that a fuller history of the Russian People’s University in Chicago could offer a unique view into the world of the Russian emigre community and those who fled turmoil of Russia for the safe haven of America.
Those interested in Russians in Chicago more generally might wish to start here, though one would have to go far beyond this to learn more:
During this Holy Week time, I am going to shift just a bit on my running series regarding Orthodoxy and higher education here in America. Instead of mentioning an historical event, I thought I’d share something from Fr. Georges Florovsky. If you need to know a little something about his life, go here:
The following quote is from “Faith and Culture,” St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly 4:1-2 (1955-56), 44.
“Either Christians ought to go out of the world, in which there is another master besides Christ (whatever name this master may bear: Caesar or Mammon or any other), and start a separate society. Or again they have to transform the outer world and rebuild it according to the law of the Gospel. What is important, however, is that even those who go out cannot dispense with the main problem: they still have to build up a “society” and cannot therefore dispense with this basic element of social culture. “Anarchism” is in any case excluded by the Gospel. Nor does Monasticism mean or imply a denunciation of culture. Monasteries were, for a long time, precisely the most powerful centers of cultural activity, both in the West and in the East. The practical problem is therefore reduced to the question of a sound and faithful orientation in a concrete historical situation.
Christians are not committed to the denial of culture as such. But they are to be critical of any existing cultural situation and measure it by the measure of Christ. For Christians are also the Sons of Eternity, i.e. prospective citizens of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Yet problems and needs of “this age” in no case and in no sense can be dismissed or disregarded, since Christians are called to work and service precisely “in this world” and “in this age.” Only all these needs and problems and aims must be viewed in that new and wider perspective which is disclosed by the Christian Revelation and illumined by its light.”
Definitely wise words to heed as we continue to plan and develop Orthodox engagement with higher education. Definitely fitting words for this time of year.