When we think of Dr. Martin Luther King, I wonder if many people are not inclined to think of him as the leader of “them.” The leader of a people living in our midst who are somehow different and separate. But in reading through some of Dr. King’s speeches earlier in the week, I was reminded of how much he stood for those values and ideals for which all worthy Americans stand.
And while we are inclined to remember his “I have a dream” speech, he said so many other things of merit and universal truth. Among them:
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?”
“It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor for justice for all people.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
And as for his close relationship with the Jewish community, he declared:
“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking about anti-Semitism.”
And of Israel he stated:
“Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done…an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”
As we observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is important that we remember the strong and positive relationship that he had with the Jewish community. He personally identified with both our teachings and our historical experiences. He found great wisdom in our Bible, and had strong and supportive feelings about the State of Israel. As we remember him this weekend, may we feel ourselves summoned to hope, tolerance, acceptance and action – ideals that inspired Dr. King and that he related to our Hebrew Bible and our Jewish tradition.