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Hazel Shackelford of the Alliance
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of the National African American
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January 18 • 2007
Parker cited Dr. King's friendship with
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of
20th-century America's most profound
thinkers and theologians (see related
story on page 15). The two met at a
1963 Chicago forum on religion and
race. In 1965, the two marched togeth-
er from Selma to Montgomery.
Rabbi Heschel wanted Jews to con-
front racism in their hearts, not just
in public. Introducing his colleague in
the Catskills, the rabbi asked: "Where
in America do we hear a voice like the
voice of the prophets of Israel? Martin
Luther King is a sign that God has not
forsaken the United States of America.
God has sent him to us. His presence
is the hope of America?'
Rabbi Heschel, a revered teacher at
the Jewish Theological Seminary in
New York, described America's best-
known freedom fighter as "a voice, a
vision and a way"
"I call upon every Jew to hearken to
his voice, to share his vision, to follow
in his way," the rabbi said. "The whole
future of America will depend upon
the impact and influence of Dr. King?'
"It is that history of activism and
that connectivity that the Jewish com-
munity has with the civil rights move-
ment that I beg you to tap back into:'
Parker said. "The challenge requires
more than an organizational commit-
ment; it also requires a personal corn-
The Jewish Community Council
arranged Parker's appearance.
Executive Director Robert Cohen
reflected on the longstanding ties
between blacks and Jews in the fight
for civil rights. "Her call for strength-
ening those ties — in particular, not
to give up the fight against racism
despite the passage of Proposal 2
— resonated with me as the kind of
call Dr. King would make if he were
with us today:' Cohen said.
Howard Neistein, chief administra-
tive officer of Federation, said Dr.
King's teachings are especially relevant
today "where we see on a daily basis
the willingness of human beings to
destroy each other based on ethnic,
religious or racial differences?'
"The news media give us endless
reports about the impact of terror and
violence in the Middle East, the Sudan,
Somalia and parts of Western Europe
"We know we have much to gain
from dialogue and shared experi-
ences," said Lisa Soble Siegmann of
the Alliance for Jewish Education.
"How do we embrace what we have in
common? How do we honor our dif-
ferences? We can start right here in the
Max M. Fisher Federation Building:
talking to each other, learning from
each other, growing together. We have
an opportunity to become better,
stronger people just by taking a begin-
ning step — by starting the dialogue
right here at home:" Li
Martin Luther King Jr., the son of a southern Baptist minister, a
descendant of slaves, a role model for nonviolent dissent against big-
otry, was just 39 when he was gunned down in Memphis, where he had
come to support the sanitation workers. His 1968 murder came 13 years
after he rose to prominence in the Montgomery bus boycott, a seminal
event in civil rights history.
The 77th anniversary of Dr. King's birth was Jan. 15. Martin Luther
King Jr. Day, held the closest Monday to Jan. 15, is a federal holiday.
Good Faith Financial
it's about our children. We must take
opportunities like Martin Luther King
Day to bring our kids together so
when they end up together in college,
it's not their first experience with a
person who does not look like them."
Parker, winner of the 2005 Damon
J. Keith Community Spirit Award in
honor of the U.S. Court of Appeals
judge and his pursuit of community
service and social justice, called on the
communal organizations represented
at her talk to help inspire the larger
Jewish community to get involved.
"We've got to be vigilant in figur-
ing out how to bring people together
because Michigan's future depends
upon it',' she said.