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Jewish communities to celebrate MLK Day across the nation

Some of the events are interfaith; most are geared to help local populations.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo by Menachem Wecker.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo by Menachem Wecker.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is slated to headline an annual Friday-night interfaith service at Temple Beth-El, in Great Neck, N.Y., the Reform synagogue where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in 1967. On Sunday, volunteers from the temple and St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church will prepare and serve dinner for families in need.

The latter is one of more than 60 volunteer projects, in partnership with 29 organizations, that the UJA-Federation of New York announced ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is celebrated this year on Monday, Jan. 15.

Among the other programs that the UJA lists are packing supplies for Holocaust survivors with the JCC Rockaway Peninsula in Far Rockaway, N.Y.; a joint project of Congregation Kneses Tifereth Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Port Chester, N.Y., and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, in Rye Brook, N.Y., packing lunches for children in need; a “senior extravaganza” of the Kings Bay Y, in Brooklyn, visiting with older adults; and packing and delivering groceries and “literacy kits” with the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

“Over just a few hours on MLK Day, the group and volunteers will pack 1,000 emergency food relief boxes of halal products, 500 halal spice kits, 2,000 literacy kits for families with young children, 1,000 stress-relief kits for CUNY students, 140 food packages for those receiving ongoing and emergency food support from Met Council,” the nonprofit told JNS.

Park Synagogue, a Conservative congregation in Cleveland, plans to hold an “MLK Day of Mitzvot” on Sunday “to carry on the teachings and heritage of Martin Luther King Jr. to help and care for others in our community.” The event will include writing letters to Israeli soldiers, a blood drive, packing and delivering food, and making blankets for those in need.

In Farmington Hills, Mich., Adat Shalom Synagogue, a Conservative congregation, will hold a Friday-night service honoring King, with Rev. Kenneth Flowers, of Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, and a gospel choir and a “rockapella” with the synagogue’s cantor and choir.

Middle Church in New York City plans to hold a “King Day Teach-In,” which will address “(re)building black and Jewish beloved community” on Monday. Rabbi Joshua Stanton, of East End Temple, a Reform congregation in Manhattan, and Rev. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister for public theology and transformation at the church, will teach together after the service. (The event includes “soul food” for breakfast and lunch, and the church requires a negative COVID test and masking for in-person attendees.)

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel with Martin Luther King Jr. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

In Washington, D.C., Sixth & I, located in a historic synagogue, plans to hold a Friday-night “MLK Shabbat: Visions of Freedom and Justice,” which commemorates the spirit and work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and includes “soul-lifting music from Covenant Baptist UCC’s choir and Sixth & I musicians.”

Wilshire Boulevard Temple, a Reform congregation in Los Angeles, has a “Martin Luther King Jr. Shabbat” planned on Friday night with a performance of spirituals, including King’s favorite song, “as we recall his inspirational message of unity, respect, love and peace, and use them to guide our steps towards a more hopeful future.”

The Jewish service movement Repair the World plans to host or co-host more than 100 events in 12 major cities in an MLK Weekend of Service. Many of the events have progressive themes, including a panel on “abortion and birth justice,” a “racial justice”-themed Shabbat dinner and an “immigration justice art soirée.”

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