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Alice Herz Was Remarkable

Sharon Ottenbreit
On Secrets (July 2020)

Dear Editor: I was notified that one of our members, Sam Hays, sent you information about Alice Herz, in response to the poem that Carlos Valentin III wrote about her (“Ten Days,” Jan/Feb 2019) and regarding information I recently discovered in Detroit Friends Meeting’s old files. Sam informed you that Alice was asked to leave the meeting, but I felt the need to let you know that there are more facts about this situation that we may not be able to grasp from the limited data we have. We are making assumptions and probably lack of a true understanding of the situation.

Detroit Friends Meeting’s Oversight Committee had many meetings with Alice over a six-year period to help resolve concerns. It appears to have been a mutual decision for her to leave, and her final letter to the Meeting was full of kind words and respect for the members and attenders. I think it is hard for us to understand all the circumstances regarding her role and others’ during silent worship. Through my lens, some of the meeting’s members had a difficult time centering during silent worship and listening to her vocal ministries or her announcements afterwards.

Alice did attend the Unitarian Universalist Church in Detroit after that. She continued to refer others to read Quaker literature about peace.

I have gained some insight from reading the book about her life and discovering documents in our old files. One thing is for certain: Alice Herz was a remarkable woman!  

– Sharon Ottenbreit, Co-Clerk, Detroit Friends Meeting

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