Because of the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Bridge blog is suspending activity through January 16. We’ll be back with fresh content on Tuesday, January 17.
As we pause to remember the legacy of Dr. King, who saw a clear parallel between the struggle for equality faced by his own people and the Jewish people's struggle against oppression, Rabbi Eckstein shares the way he was inspired by the life of this man of faith and principle.
My greatest recollections of Dr. Martin Luther King weren’t only of his inspiring leadership, or his incredible ability to speak with vision and passion – qualities shared by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whom he marched with in the civil rights movement. What I recall is that Dr. King was a man of principle. Everyone was advising him, when he spoke out against the Vietnam War, “Don’t do it, because it will break up the Civil Rights Movement.” He said, in effect: I have to; this is a part of my moral stance. He went against the grain, and against his advisors. And whether people agreed with him or not on this particular issue, he acted according to the dictates of his Christian faith.
I have always been moved and inspired by Rabbi Heschel’s poetic description of what religion, faith, and Judaism really are. And the same thing is true with Dr. King and Christianity. These were people who, as the expression goes, “gave feet to their faith” (quite literally, when they marched together for equal rights for African-Americans). They didn’t stay in an ivory tower or in the pulpit or in the university. They went among their people like Moses did. He grew up in the palace of Pharaoh. But when he saw the oppression of his people, the Jewish people, he came down from that “throne,” if you will, and helped deliver them from bondage...
Learn more about the historic link between African Americans and the Jewish community dating back to the Civil Rights Movement in our free downloadable booklet, On the Frontlines of Faith.