Honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tomorrow our country honors the life, work and memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the Jewish community, we too must honor Dr. King and his passion for justice, hope and Godliness. As we are taught in the book of Genesis, we are all created B’Tselem Eloheim, in God’s image, and thus all – each child, woman and man – regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality or gender must be treated with respect, equality and justice.

Here are excerpts from Dr. King’s many speeches:

Living with Diversity
“We have inherited a large house, a great world house in which we have to live together — black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu — a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”

– – Martin Luther King, Jr., “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” 1967
(source= JCC MLK Personal Expression Essay Contest)

War and Peace
“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

– – Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam” Speech, Riverside Church, 1967
(source= JCC MLK Personal Expression Essay Contest)

On Violence
Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.
–Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.
(source= An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963, p. 51 (Two quotations below are from this book as cited by An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.)

“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

A number of web sites honor Dr. King, including:
The King Center,
Living Dr. King’s Dream, Jewishly – this site includes a list of 6 things you and your family can do to honor Dr. King.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Resources as collected by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, including the following sub-topics:
Websites and Resources About Martin Luther King, Jr.
Writings and Speeches
Programming Ideas and Resources
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Congregational Program Bank (RAC)

Two Midwives, Martin Luther King and the Origins of Civil Disobedience (SocialAction.com)
Learning from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (SocialAction.com)
Review of Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Jewish Community(SocialAction.com)

What would Dr. King say today about the Israel/Palestinian conflict? On the so-called Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend
NFTY resource page on Dr. King

A posting on Dr. King is incomplete without mention of one of Dr. King’s friends, colleagues and partners in the work of repairing the world – Rabbi Abraham Joshuah Heschel, Ph.D. (also of blessed memory). Heschel met, prayed, studied and protested with Dr. King. After the 1965 civil-rights march in Selma, Alabama, Heschel said, “I felt my legs were praying.” (As quoted on page vii of the book “Moral Grandeur and Spirtual Audacity : Essays” by Abraham Joshua Heschel and edited by his daughter, Susannah Heschel, Ph.D.). On the expereince of marching that day he also said, “I felt a sense of Holy in what I was doing. Dr. King expressed several times to me his appreciation. He said, ‘I cannot tell you how much your presence means to us. You cannot imagine how often Reverend Vivian and I speak aobut you.’ Dr. King said to me that this was the greatest day in his life and the most important civil-rights demonstration.” (also from Moral Grandeur… pg. xxiii-xxiv.)

Heschel knew personally the cost of prejudice and hatred, and he wrote that “religion cannot coexist with racism: Racism is satanism, unmitigated evil. . . You cannot worship God and at the same time look at man as if he were a horse.” (Moral Grandeur, xvii ) Heschel, like Dr. King, was deeply opposed to the war in Vietnam. In 1965, Heschel and John Bennett and Richahrd Neuhaus founded “Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam.” Repeatedly Heschel reminded us all, “In a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” (Moral Grandeur, xxiv.)

[Here are just a couple of sites on Heschel: Abraham Joshua Heschel, Our Generation’s Teacher and Heschel, a significant theologian.]

Thanks for reading this long post, go forth, learn and do good work!

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