While we all know about the vital work Martin Luther King, Jr., did to promote civil rights – work we pause to remember this coming Monday – it’s not as widely known that he also had a concern about the oppression of Jewish people.
A San Francisco Chronicle article from 2002, written by fellow civil rights activist John Lewis, captures well Dr. King’s special bond with Israel:
He knew that both peoples were subject to laws passed with the particular intent of oppressing them simply because they were Jewish or black. He knew that both peoples have been subjected to oppression and genocide on a level unprecedented in history.
King understood how important it is not to stand by in the face of injustice. He understood the cry, "Let my people go."
Long before the plight of the Jews in the Soviet Union was on the front pages, he raised his voice. "I cannot stand idly by, even though I happen to live in the United States and even though I happen to be an American Negro and not be concerned about what happens to the Jews in Soviet Russia. For what happens to them happens to me and you, and we must be concerned."