Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
Reading Rabbi Saul Berman’s moving front-page essay (“Martin Luther King and the Exodus Narrative”) in last week’s Jewish Press struck an emotional chord. Particularly since earlier in the week I’d attended an “Evening of Solidarity in Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” which took place at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in association with Reverend Roger Hambrick and the Green Pastures Baptist Church.
Between the spirited singing, clapping, speaking, and dancing (by men only) we experienced a few magic messianic moments. There we were: white, olive, brown and black people, Jew and Christian, praising the Lord together in quite a joyful way – and in an Orthodox synagogue. It took me back to the best days of the 1960’s, before Black Power and black nationalism turned away from Dr. Kings’ vision of non-violence and embraced an Islamic-style Jew-hatred. The evening was, in essence, an instance of inter-faith solidarity and constituted a living legacy to Dr. King’s work.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has touched my life in both personal and political ways. Like many other Jews, I was an activist in the Civil Rights movement from 1963 on and was strengthened by the very Jewish perspective about slavery and freedom the movement embodied (and which Rabbi Berman brought out so well in his essay).
Like other activists, including secularists, I learned a thing or two about oratory from Dr. King’s sublime speechifying. I was privileged to hear his noble “I have a dream” speech and I lived through the days of his shocking assassination. (Coincidentally, my son had his bar mitzvah on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and his parsha happened to be B’shalach, which celebrates the victory of our leaving Egypt.)
Rabbi Avi Weiss invites Reverend Roger Hambrick and his choir each year. It is now something of a tradition. After singing Hatikva, the Star Spangled Banner, and some psalms, President Daniel Perla and Rabbis Adam Starr and Etan Mintz all praised Dr. King and told us that “the world has still not yet assimilated his message,” that “oppression and discrimination, even slavery still exist,” and that the “songs” we were about to hear were not “mere songs but were prayers” and “manifestations of tikkun olam” (repair of the world), a concept that is central to both Judaism and Dr. King’s Christianity.
The SAR High School chorus and Neshama Carlebach joined the extraordinary Baptist choir and the place rocked.
What made the evening important was this: Jew-hatred and discrimination on the basis of color were both denounced as “racism” and “evil.” Carlebach spoke about “building bridges,” both to each other in this world and in the world to come; she imagined Dr. King as a mighty soul who was building a bridge toward our world “from the other side” – but that we had to join in that labor so that heaven and earth might meet.
Rev. Hambrick was a truly jovial and commanding presence whose own singing was powerful and powerfully reassuring. Rabbi Weiss did a low-key Baptist-style call-and-response in tribute to his honored guests.
Rabbi Weiss noted that this month was also the 100th birthday of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched with Dr. King in Selma. When Heschel was asked what he was doing, he said he was “praying with his feet.”
Rabbi Weiss wanted to find a Torahdik basis for Heschel’s words – and find it he did. Yaakov dreams of angels ascending and descending a ladder and he names the place Beth-El – God’s house. Right afterward, “vayisah Yaakov raglav” (Yaakov lifted up his feet). Rabbi Weiss intoned: What did he lift up? He did not lift up his eyes, he did not lift up his hands, but he lifted up his feet, he “prayed with his feet,” so to speak, as he continued on his way Eastward and to his destiny.
The Baptists were delighted as were the Jews, and a truly uplifting time was had by all. We need more such evenings. We need to refresh our alliances with peoples of faith in preparation for messianic times.
About the Author: Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a professor emerita of psychology, a Middle East Forum fellow, and the author of fifteen books including “Women and Madness” (1972), “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003), and her latest, “An American Bride in Kabul” (2013). Her articles are archived at www.phyllis-chesler.com.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
No tweets found.
To date, all the Bedouins’ legal land ownership claims that reached the courts have failed.
“It was quite an institutionalized racism, and we didn’t come to get involved in politics.”
With the passage of time, fewer and fewer people are left to testify about life and death in the camps at the hands of the Nazis.
A fascinating Biblical echo
So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.
Why should a young Israeli become an observant Jew when Judaism’s official representatives preserve it in its exile version?
Like Chamberlain, Obama sued the ayatollahs for peace, insisting the only alternative to appeasement is war.
I have frequently drawn up lists of what I love most about Israel, and Arik Einstein has ranked high.
This new mood among Christian Arabs has worried the communists and Arab nationalist.
After nearly five years in office it should be clear that President Obama has always been a man on a mission to change America and the world. To be sure, we couldn’t disagree more with his vision – and in this we think we speak for most Americans.
We find it noteworthy, if not surprising, that with all the well-documented systematic human rights abuses committed by governments around the world – including, but not limited to, China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Zimbabwe – not one resolution condemning any of them is planned by the UN General Assembly.
For his latest book, City College’s William Helmreich walked 120,960 blocks – in other words, nearly every block of New York’s five boroughs.
Hundreds of boats tried to run the British blockade on the dangerous, open seas.
“I am surprised those Zionists are not outside protesting,” says one woman.
“Miral” is a film that has garnered an inordinate amount of media attention. In interviews, the director, Julian Schnabel, defends his right to tell the Palestinian “narrative” for what he claims is the first time. He seems not to know that many others before him have specialized in this particular line of work.
Our beloved, miraculous Jewish state is under siege.
It was assumed that the ceaseless persecution of the Jews in exile would cease once we again had our own sovereign homeland, our own army, navy, and air force.
In 1947-1948 I lived in Boro Park where, against parental and rabbinic advice, I joined a Zionist group. By 1950 I was packing machine-gun parts for Israel in a home not far from the Young Israel. But what I did as a child does not compare to what my friend and colleague David Gutmann did for love of Zion at that very time on the dangerous open seas.
Reality has become somewhat Scandinavian. It grows dark early and it is bitterly cold here in New York City and over a good portion of our fair land. Our Prince of Peace (The Norwegian Nobel, not the noble variety) is not yet asking whether “to be or not to be.” Perhaps he is not entirely convinced that “that is the question.”
One of four Courage in Journalism awards to be presented later this month by Christiane Amanpour and Irshad Manjie, among others, will go to the Israeli journalist Amira Hass, whose unremitting critique of Israel serves as a veritable blood libel against the Jewish people.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/an-evening-of-faith-and-promise/2007/01/24/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online:
No related posts.