Honoring Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel
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Honoring Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel

Monday was a day off from school for some people.

For others, it was a remarkably easy rush hour.

Yet others went to the mall.

If asked why they were off, some might have been able to say that it was in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

On the Friday night before, Rabbi Debra Orenstein held a special service with local Christian clergy at Congregation B’nai Israel in Emerson.

For one night in January, Jews and Christians came together to honor Dr. King’s memory and the civil rights advancements he made, as well a his close relationship with Rabbi Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel. The two friends worked toward one another’s dream; Rabbi Heschel fought and marched for racial equality and Dr. King was an outspoken supporter for freedom for Soviet Jews.

There is still much to be done for civil rights. Women still don’t earn as much as their male counterparts. Even though it is getting better, not all members of the LGBT community always feel safe. Rabbi Heschel and Dr. King showed that persistent, non-violent words and actions can change a country. Still, blacks and Jews still live largely different lives.

Memorials are important. Most young people know little about the civil rights movement. We can look at our black president with pride, his accomplishments growing out of Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel’s legacy.

It’s time to take what we learned from the 1960s and re-introduce it to children, teens, and adults. How far have we come? Would Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel approve of the world as it is today?

And so who are the future Rabbi Heschels and Dr. Kings? The idea was for use to follow through on the work they’ve done, not just stand still and memorialize it.

There’s a lot of hard, courageous work to do. Still.

We’re guessing that Dr. King would rather that we not take the day off unless we used it to help bring justice and true equality for every man, woman, and child of every race, religion, and ethnicity.

In honor of his birthday, take a day on, not off.

–JP

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