When I was studying to become a rabbi, I was often asked if I wanted to model my rabbinic life on my father, who was also a rabbi and a Holocaust survivor. And I always answered “Yes, because he marched with Martin Luther King in Selma. Both Dad and Dr. King were and are my role models as I move through my life. Now, as the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism, I see horrible trends of increased hatred towards so many. I also see an age-old trend of silence by others. Today, as we remember Dr. King’s powerful and poignant message, I especially want to recall his call to action to confront hatreds and demand social justice for all. Jews and Muslims share an adage that says we are not required to finish the task of mending the world, but neither are we free to desist from doing all we can.
I want to read some quotes from Dr. King’s 1963 book: “Strength to Love”.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness – only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…”
“We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.”
“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true…”
“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“Success, recognition and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
On this 47th anniversary commemorating Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech and honoring his life, his dream, his guidance even today, let’s be sure we continue to speak for those who cannot speak, to demand rights for those who have no power, to advance social justice and human and civil rights for those that are beaten down, to reach out to those that are isolated, to give support to those who are afraid, and to rededicate ourselves to keep hope and dreams alive.