50 years ago, hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the Lincoln Monument to listen as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recited the now-famous words, “I have a dream.”
50 years ago, some 250,000 Americans of all races, religions, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds marched with their brothers and sisters as one. They marched for civil and economic rights for African Americans, and for the values that imbued our nation’s founding: the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.
50 years ago, the Reform Jewish Community was on the front lines of this battle. Our Movement’s leaders helped lead some of the most important civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
50 years ago, Kivie Kaplan, a Reform Jew, URJ board member, and prominent advocate served as the president of the NAACP and also was the RAC’s founding benefactor, donating the building in which we continue to operate. And, of course, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were drafted in the RAC’s conference room.
50 years ago, American Jews were active participants and leaders in the Civil Rights Movement’s protests, rallies and advocacy efforts from coast to coast. This weekend, commemorate this momentous anniversary with us, either in D.C. or in your community.
“The Jews Who Marched on Washington” – by Seth Berkman, Jewish Daily Forward
Speech at 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington – Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union for Reform Judaism
“Reflections on the March on Washington” – Rabbi Richard Hirsch, Founder, Religious Action Center
“The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement” – by Ruth Messinger, President, American Jewish World Service
Check out our Shabbat Tzedek portal for resources to celebrate this important moment in history, and look forward to the work still left to be done, at your Shabbat services this weekend or next.
- Watch our video about the role the Reform Movement played in the civil rights movement
- Check out the prayers, services/readings or other ritual materials to help observe this anniversary
- Peruse the historic social justice anthems, music, photos and images, and other archival materials that document the era.
Events in Washington, D.C.
Saturday, August 24: March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial beginning at 8:00AM and lasting until 12:30PM. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, to speak at opening prayer service.
Wednesday, August 28: Join us at the RAC (2027 Massachusetts Avenue, NW) at 8:30AM for a bagel breakfast and then walk with our staff to the National Mall for speeches by Presidents Obama, Clinton and Carter. RSVP here by Tuesday evening!