Community honors William E. Blackstone

The Blackstone Commemoration Committee celebrated founder’s life at Forest Lawn.


Melissa Hedrick/ THE CHIMES

Alondra Urizar, Writer

Members of the Biola and Jewish communities, as well as the Los Angeles consulates of Israel and Korea, gathered together at Forest Lawn Memorial Park on Wednesday, Sept. 28 to honor the life of William E. Blackstone.

A Visionary and Humble Man

Though the event was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., it began slightly later with approximately 100 people in attendance. Paul Rood, adjunct professor of political science and history, spearheaded the project with sponsors Biola University, Simon Wiesenthal Center, The Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, Forest Lawn, Jewish National Fund and Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation as a part of the Blackstone Commemoration Committee.

Speakers extolled Blackstone’s work, calling him a visionary and a humble man who fought for the return of the Jews to the land of Israel. Born in 1841, Blackstone had no formal education but a strong knowledge of the Bible and travelled to share the message of Jesus Christ. Blackstone acted as Biola’s first dean and he helped establish the first Torrey Memorial Bible Conference. Jerry Rueb, Biola’s Board of Trustees member and lead pastor of Cornerstone Church in Long Beach, believes students can learn many valuable lessons, one in regard to their education.

“While Biola is a Christian institution and it is a university, William Blackstone didn’t really have a formal education, and so it speaks a word to students at Biola to say what you gain in class is only the beginning. Learn to be self-taught,” Rueb said.

Father of Zionism

Despite his educational background, he wrote a petition for returning Palestine to the Jews and presented it to President Benjamin Harrison. In an article written by Rood for the Biola Magazine, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis referred to Blackstone as the father of Zionism and requested the resubmission of his petition, the “Blackstone Memorial,” to assist the Jewish refugees isolated by the Russian Empire. Thirteen years after Blackstone’s death in 1935, Israel became a nation in 1948.

Former president of Israel and last living founding member of the state, Shimon Peres, passed away at the age of 93 on Sept. 27, the day prior to the commemoration. Deputy minister for diplomacy and former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, originally planned to speak at Blackstone’s commemoration ceremony, but had to return to Israel for Peres’ funeral.

A Great Legacy

After the first portion, attendees were led by Forest Lawn staff to the site of Blackstone’s gravestone to allow a representative of the State of Israel to present his living family members a memorial wreath

At the end of the event, Student Government Association president Jessica Snow felt grateful to see how one of Biola’s founders devoted his time to making Biola the place it is today.

“I just thought it was extremely encouraging to see a little bit more of Biola’s roots and people who have poured in and invested so much into making this place what it is. And then be able to realize that you get to be a part of continuing on this great man’s legacy who is so inspirational in the way he wanted to share the gospel and really create harmony,” Snow said.

In 2017, Biola hopes to dedicate a forest outside of Nazareth, Israel: the Blackstone Forest.

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