This past Monday, I had the incredible honor to represent the Jewish community at the 51st MLK commemoration ceremony at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Sitting feet away from Martin Luther King’s daughter, Dr. Bernice King was mind-blowing- it was like touching history.
Electric energy permeated the air; the sanctuary filled with passionate words directed towards radical reformation and change. When I stood to offer my reading of Torah, I felt this electricity almost overwhelm my entire being.
Faith leaders and activists charged the audience with the mission to right the injustice and racism that pervades America today. Bryan Stevenson, the keynote speaker, encouraged folks to “get proximate, change the narrative, maintain hope and to get uncomfortable” in a mission to better reach out to and lift up those who live below the poverty line, or who lie on the margins of society.
Stevenson explains that one must move into the heart of the issue they are trying to elevate. This requires becoming close with whom you are working to effect change. Changing the narrative; uncovering truths of where we are and lifting up the real story is essential to effecting real change. It demands a sense of faith, but more than a sense of faith there must be a sense of upward motion- a continuing feeling of hope that someday one could effect change for themselves and others. Finally, if one is to engage in this type of work, one must move into a place of discomfort, by placing oneself in the midst of the very people, narratives, stories or situations they are trying to motivate change to.
These words inspire me, and the work I do with our inclusion awareness committee, Koleinu.
Tomorrow night, is our annual Shabbat of the Senses service in honor of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion month. Over the years, our service has become one that elevates similarity over difference. Just as Bryan Stevenson charges, we move to stand side by side as a community. We recognize that while one individual or another may face varying levels of challenges and ability, we all share the same divine spark of B’tzelem Elohim, we are made in the image of God.
Join me as we sing, pray and stand together as one people with many narratives, as we lift up hope and continue with faith, and work together to bring about change.