From the Mountaintop
The Dallas Jewish Community Foundation will be closed on Martin Luther King’s Birthday, this year remembered on January 18th. I must be honest and say I considered not closing our offices. Not because I didn’t want to honor his memory, but rather I didn’t want his birthday to be just another excuse to miss work. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy…Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” These words transcend the decades and are as relevant today as the day he spoke them. Our country is not perfect. We have not yet been to the mountain top. But we are getting closer.
The history between Dr. King and the Jewish community ran deep. We shared values and faith, along with histories of oppression and persecution. Yes, we shared the same hateful enemies, but we also shared in “the dream”. For the black community and the Jewish community we share the same hope of an America that treats all of its citizens with dignity and respect.
Historically, Jews were among the leaders in the struggle for civil rights. The NAACP was founded by Jews, Jewish attorneys helped to win the major civil rights legal battles, and Rabbis marched arm in arm with Dr. king. I’ll never forget an elderly Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who was asked by a reporter what is was like to march with Dr. King. Rabbi Heschel replied “for the first time in my life I felt as if even my feet were praying”.
Dr. King was also a friend to the State of Israel. “Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all of our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land almost can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”
Personally, I remember Dr. King with his own words; "Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter." His words are not a lesson in history class. They are a call, a challenge to all of us, we must become the new drum majors for justice. Let us work together so that all people will be judged on the content of their character. We must lead our nation to the mountain top. Amen.