Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.
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.
The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.
Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof
What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.
Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.
The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.
Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US
No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?
For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.
It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.
For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.
Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation
Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.
Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers
Few of the volunteers were experienced sailors, (Greenfield had been in the Merchant Marine). Few were Zionists.
My good colleague Kay is wrong about the early demise of conspiracy theories and blood libels against the Jews.
“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.”
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: