MLK Day 2012: Celebrating the Legacy of a Hero

And I would like to use as a basis for our thinking together some of the great noble words from our Declaration of Independence – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Now the first thing that we notice in this great American creed is an amazing universalism. It does not say some men; it says all men. It does not say all white men, but it says all men, which includes black men. It does not say Gentiles, but it says all men, which includes Jews.

 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke these words to an audience of Reform Jews during the 1963 Biennial. The relationship between the Jewish and African American communities stems from our shared histories as victimized peoples and is strengthened by our commitments to social justice and repairing the world, known in our tradition as tikkun olam.

Monday, January 16, marks Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, reminding us again of the triumphs of a leader whose non-violent activism spoke louder than the blasts of any Molotov cocktail, whose eloquent and wise words ignited passion in us all, and whose unrelenting pursuit of civil rights changed the course of history forever.

This venerable figure, whose steady gaze looks valiantly across the Tidal Basin toward the Jefferson Memorial, inspires us to continue to fight for civil rights today, for which King’s principles of justice will never expire. The memorial also contains an inscription wall displaying more than a dozen notable quotations from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Stephanie Crawley, Machon Micah Fellow at URJ congregation Temple Micah in Washington, D.C., has prepared a handout placing those quotes from Dr. King alongside key Jewish texts that contain the same themes, followed by a series of discussion questions. This resource is a wonderful way to appreciate the new MLK memorial in the context of the philosophies that inform Jewish social activism.

Click here for more programs, texts, sermon-starters, lesson plans, historical information and other RAC resources to help you celebrate this holiday.

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Madison Arent

About Madison Arent

Madison Arent is a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. She is from Greenwood Village, CO and a graduate of Cornell University.

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