God’s rainbow is comprised of people of many colors. Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught “Judge a person not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.” King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership of non-violent opposition to white supremacy in America. He was murdered for speaking out. Tonight, during our Shabbat service, we will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence this Shabbat also celebrates the birth of Moses. Even after 3,000 years, we Jews still remember the trauma of slavery in Egypt. It has become a part of our DNA to feel kinship with anyone who is enslaved or abused. We are sensitive to the experience of our African-American neighbors for whom the trauma of slavery is far more recent. Slavery is the original sin of America’s founders, and its repercussions affect us to this very day.
Rabbi Joshua Heschel and Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., developed a close partnership during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. When Heschel and King first met, Heschel opened his speech by returning the present day to biblical history: “At the first conference on religion and race, the main participants were Pharaoh and Moses…. The outcome of that summit meeting has not come to an end. Pharaoh is not ready to capitulate. The exodus began, but is far from having been completed. In fact, it was easier for the children of Israel to cross the Red Sea than for a Negro to cross certain university campuses.”
Tonight, our guest preacher will be Dr. Karen Blacks, the Associate Minister at Antioch Baptist Church in Bedford Hills. Karen earned a Doctor of Ministry from New Theological Seminary, and recently joined our Temple as the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director.
I invite you to come to the Temple tonight to see old friends, make new friends, and to engage with the legacy of Rev Dr. Martin Luther Jr, through the eyes of Dr. Karen Blacks and her message to our community today.
Rabbi David Wilfond