I want to say something to honor Martin Luther King Day, but I don't know that I have words meaningful enough for the occasion. And as a white woman, I don't want to co-opt the memory of a great African American leader.
But one of my rabbinic and civil rights heroes, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, was a friend and admirer of Dr. King's. So I'll share a brief quotation from him, speaking after Dr. King's assassination. He said:
Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America. God has sent him to us...his mission is sacred...I call upon every Jew to hearken to his voice, to share his vision, to follow in his way. The whole future of America will depend upon the influence of Dr. King.
(I found that in the essay Two Prophets, One Soul, written by Rabbi Harold Schulweis in honor of Rabbi Heschel's yarzheit.)
We have a long way to go before we reach the America of Dr. King's yearnings. But -- as the sages in Pirkei Avot remind us -- though it's not incumbent on us to finish the task, neither are we free to refrain from beginning it.
I'll leave you with a two-minute excerpt from the film Praying With My Legs, which speaks to how these two great men informed and inspired one another. May we, their descendants, do the same.
May the memory of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King be a blessing.