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i too have a dream

08/31/2023 09:27:04 AM

Aug31

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

I had the privilege this past Shabbat to participate in the March on Washington at the invitation of Dr. Bernice King and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King III. The invitation was facilitated through Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL. Watching the crowd of people and thinking about the duration of speeches in the hot sun, I wondered how might I make a difference? Would I simply be another droning voice? The answer came after I concluded my speech, which was timed in under two minutes, based upon the parameters that were sent to me. As I walked away from the podium and took my leave, I was about to pass by three black men. The first expressed his appreciation to me and embraced me. That was followed by the other two gentlemen. That’s when I knew that my presence was important. A few additional important moments were:

  • I was a guest of the ADL for Friday evening dinner at the hotel, and invited to lead Kiddush. The speaker invited to light candles was Ely Benhamo, a founder of OneTable (see www.onetable.org). She told the audience that this organization was founded as a response to 10.27. After additional remarks, I ascended the stage to lead the Kiddush. Since people had not yet filled their wine glasses, I invited everyone to do so. It got rather noisy. I tried to quiet down the crowd, and then announced: My name is Jeffrey Myers, and I am the Rabbi of Tree of Life Congregation. I looked directly at Ely as I said this. The immediate silence in the room was palpable and powerful.
  • I met a CNN political commentator, introduced myself, and suggested that he was probably the only CNN personality that I have not met. He said “Oh Rabbi” and we clasped hands for what seemed like forever. I sensed that he was about to leave, when he shook his head and gave me a big hug. We embraced for quite a bit, and then as we released, he just kept patting my shoulder, seemingly speechless. It was the most compelling moment that transcended any words.
  • While seated in the speakers’ area after my speech, many leaders in the black community approached me to express their gratitude that I attended and spoke.

The awesomeness of the moment has not escaped me. I stood on the same steps that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood sixty years prior when he delivered “I Have a Dream”. I’m humbled to have been a minute part of this day.

Here is a link to view my speech as recorded live. I am at the 2:40:10 mark.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJv_BWyEd7g

If you wish to read my speech, here it is:

Good morning. My name is Jeffrey Myers, and I am the Rabbi of the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. On October 27, 2018, a gunman entered our building during Sabbath services, massacred eleven Jewish worshippers, injured two more as well as five police officers. I was there. I have the unenviable position of being a survivor of the worst antisemitic attack upon the Jewish community in the United States ever and a pastor to a wounded congregation.

In the aftermath of the attack, people of all colors, religions and sexual orientations responded with a loving embrace. For that I will forever be grateful. The experience reinforced for me the importance of showing up for each other. My community is not the only one devastated by antisemitism and white supremacist violence.

In the 1962 sermon “A Knock at Midnight,” Dr. King proclaimed it midnight in our country, sharing his observation that: “It is permissible even to hate, if one so dresses his hating in the garments of love that hating appears to be loving. The Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest has been substituted by a philosophy of the survival of the slickest.”

If it was midnight sixty years ago, what time is it today? What would Dr. King say today? Would he begin by noting the progress that has been made or shake his head in disgust while proclaiming loudly to America that we have failed to fulfill our moral duties to one another as fellow human beings who were created B’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image?

How long until the promissory note given to all people of this country is fulfilled? Like all gathered here, I too still dream of the day that the core promise of our country will be met.

The prophet Amos, a favorite of Dr. King’s, wrote: But let justice well up like water, righteousness like an unfailing stream. May these waters flow over this entire land, washing away the evils of hatred, so that the shine of civility may become blinding in its intensity. Of this I still dream. Shabbat Shalom.

 

Thu, May 30 2024 22 Iyyar 5784