For the Shabbat lunch of Martin Luther King Jr. weekend several years ago, my family hosted a young Israeli woman working in our community for the year in lieu of active military service in the IDF. The young woman is originally from Ethiopia.
My then seven-year-old daughter sat on her lap as they compared and contrasted size and structure of their hands. The woman said, “My hands are much darker than yours.” Without missing a beat, my daughter replied, “that’s because you have more melanin than me.” I will admit that this was one of my proudest parenting moments.
In the 1960s, Jews were on the forefront of the civil rights movement and often stood and marched with Dr. King against racism. Likewise, Dr. King stood with the Jewish community supporting Zionism and against anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a close friend of Dr. King, commented after his death, “Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America. God has sent him to us…his mission is sacred…I call upon every Jew to hearken to his voice, to share his vision, to follow in his way. The whole future of America will depend upon the influence of Dr. King.”
Heschel’s charge is as important today as ever. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and as Jews, we have been commanded to pursue justice.
There are many local celebrations of King’s life and work. Upcoming events are listed below. I hope that our Jewish community is well-represented at all of them.
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