On this Shabbat, as our nation confronts despicable acts of racial violence, we recall the civil rights partnership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (left) and Rabbi Joachim Prinz (second from right), who were among the ten founding chairmen of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Moments before Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the August 28th rally, Rabbi Prinz, a refugee from Nazi Germany, addressed the crowd:
“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful, and the most tragic problem is silence.”
In his memorable speech, Dr. King urged, “Now is the time to lift our nation to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children…With this faith we will be able to work together, to struggle together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”
Dr. King’s and Rabbi Prinz’s calls to action, the brave and principled legacy of the freedom riders who risked their lives to challenge the racial laws in the South in the 1960s, and the generations of partnership in the African-American and Jewish alliance for civil rights inspire us to take action today. Let us join in solidarity with the Black community and people of all faiths, ethnicities, and races to speak out and work together to eradicate the endemic scourges of intolerance, racial targeting, and deprivation of human rights underlying our society.
May the spirit of this Sabbath offer a moment for reflection – one that will strengthen us to continue the struggle, to “pray with our feet,” and to channel our overwhelming anger and grief into a force for justice and understanding, in recognition that we are all created in God’s image.
Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D.