On Wednesday, our nation marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and the historic “I have a dream” speech of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream,” King said on that hot August 28, 1963, as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
It was a dream, he said, that “one day this nation [would] rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'”
It was a dream, he said, that his four children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
“I have a dream today,” he said.
King’s dream was our dream, too. It was a Jewish dream.
While anti-Semitism was never as bad here as it was in Europe, it existed, nonetheless; it still exists here, and we know it.
In the early 20th century, there were all manner of signs, from restricted hotels, country clubs, colleges, professional schools and the like, to actual signs with such legends as “No Jews, blacks or Catholics allowed,” or “No Jews, blacks or women allowed.”
The common thread on all those signs was “blacks” and “Jews.” All others reflected regional prejudices. Thus, a sign posted at the University of Southern California read, “No Jews, blacks or Orientals allowed.”
Hatred of the Jew and hatred of the black went hand in hand in this country for a very long time.
Even in 2013, “white,” at least as used by the haters, defines the white Christian. In that sense, then, a Jew is no more white than an African-American or a Hispanic-American or an Asian-American.
Martin Luther King Jr. understood all that. He was not a Jew-hater. He was philo-Semitic, not anti-Semitic.
And he was a friend to the Jewish state. That is why each January the State of Israel marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day, even as we do so here. That is why there is a Martin Luther King, Jr. Forest in Israel.
On that August afternoon, Martin Luther King Jr., spoke for “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics.”
His dream was – and remains – our dream, and it is a dream not yet wholly become reality. We cannot allow ourselves to forget that. We dare not forget that.