Martin Luther King Jr. believed in people, in God, and in love. The astonishing depth of his three part faith enabled him to change the way in which race relations are perceived in America. Had he but once given into the temptation to violence, which would have been so understandable given the myriad challenges he faced, the fundamental change he wrought would have been undone. He believed passionately that people needed to see the violence and dehumanization with which blacks were assaulted. Their own soft racism that tolerated and allowed such dehumanization to persist would be stripped away as a result of knowledge.
He changed the world and reminded us of who we should be. He reminded us that we are created in the image of God and therefore deserving of love.
For most of my life, his legacy was distant. I appreciated his oratory and was inspired to look past the color of people’s skin to the content of their character. But I didn’t do much. Last year, that changed for me.
In the wake of the charged and violent tenor of race relations in the last few years, I was moved to pick up the phone and call Reverend Kaloma Smith, the pastor of AME Zion in Palo Alto, an historically black church. I called out of hope and love and was met with love. Reverend Smith and I have become friends and are passionate about deepening the connections between our two communities.
Last year, we joined together over MLK weekend. We studied Amos together in the Spring. And we marched for brother and sisterhood in the Fall. This year we look forward to another opportunity to build something between our congregations that can engender understanding and foster hope.
This coming weekend celebrates MLK’s legacy of love and hope. Reverend Smith will join us along with some members of his community for services Saturday morning. He will speak at around 11:30am. We will then make our way to Palo Alto AME Zion University Church Sunday morning. Their services start at 9:30am and they are located at 3549 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. From there, we plan to create some gatherings around our shared musical heritage. Klezmer and Jazz line up in wonderful ways. By enjoying music together, we can create a different and more open conversation. Reverend Smith and I are in a JCRC program that will take us to Israel in the Fall as well.
After my email last week, a number of people have stepped forward to help deepen these ties. If you are interested, let me know. There’s more we can do!
May King’s legacy of love and hope inspire us towards the effective possibilities of non-violence to elicit world changing blessing.
Shabbat Shalom and see you in Church!
Rabbi David Booth