The following was authored by TUJ Member, Jill Appel
Each January, the Temple of Universal Judaism and Park Avenue Christian Church, linked by a powerful interfaith commitment, commemorate Martin Luther King Day with a service honoring the memories of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These two men came from different faiths to march together in support of equality, civil rights and justice for all Americans. In honoring their memories, we seek to remind the world that their dream remains unrealized.
Rabbi Heschel and Dr. King’s work is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago duriing the great Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. 2013 ended with still greater economic disparity in the ever-growing gulf between high-income and other Americans. The compromised futures of hundreds of thousands of American children growing up in poverty, the ongoing incarceration of dispraportionate numbers of African-Americans that has been called “the new Jim Crow,” attacks on hard-won voting rights in the South through challenges to fair-access voting laws, as well as ethnic and sectarian conflicts all reverberate in America and beyond our borders.
Still, the world of 2014 brings opportunities unheard of in the segregated world of the 1960’s. This year we honor a unique organization: the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU.org), founded by Rabbi Marc Schneir and Entertainer-Businessperson Russell Simmons in 1989 to restore the “historic alliance between African and Jewish Americans” as exemplified by the relationship between Rabbi Heschel and Reverend King. Today FFEU’s work has broadened to improve the relationship between Muslims and Jews. Through programs like FFEU’s annual “Weekend of Twinning,” pairing Jewish and Muslim communities of faith, the Foundation helps Jews and Muslims find common ground together.
As New York City turns to a new mayor elected with promises to bring the city together, let us find hope and renewed commitment as The Park Avenue Christian Church and The Temple of Universal Judaism come together for the 17th Annual Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Service to honor FFEU for its groundbreaking interfaith and interethnic activism.