This morning I had the privilege and honor of speaking briefly at the annual Martin Luther King Interfaith Prayer Breakfast here in Los Angeles sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Several religious leaders were asked to share their thoughts on this King Day. Today is actually Dr. King’s birthday. He would have been 81.
These are my remarks this morning.
Justice Must Be Universal. I learned this from Dr. King. I am a child of Memphis, Tennessee living there in the years following Dr. King’s assassination. My rabbi, Dr. James Wax was the president of the Memphis Ministerial Association in 1968 and worked hand in hand with Dr. King on the Sanitation Worker’s strike that brought him to Memphis trying to resolve the issues in favor of the workers. This was the environment I grew up in.
There is the Torah and Scripture laid out in word and the Torah of our lives. The Scripture of action. Dr King and Rabbi Wax lived out the Bible of Action. The Torah lived not in abstract but in daily life. I learned Justice Must Be Universal in my synagogue and from my rabbi.
As a teenager I drove my mother to work on Beale Street just blocks from a crumbling Lorraine Motel. Often I would sit outside and contemplate what happened there. I would contemplate the work and life of Dr. King. And I know I was called to action. My own rabbi, Dr. Wax and Dr. King’s work influenced my spirituality and my call to become a rabbi. I learned first hand that justice must be universal.
Today I speak to you as the first woman president of the Southern California Board of Rabbis. I am honored to represent my colleagues. As a woman I know first hand the face of discrimination. But I also speak as a lesbian. I know that God made me as I am. I know that equality must be extended to gay people because Dr. King taught us that justice must be universal. Whether combating racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny or homophobia- justice must be universal.
For then we can fulfill the vision that Dr. King taught of the beloved community. The community that we create this morning. We can create a beloved community that regardless of our colors, our faiths, our gender, or orientations we can build and heal the world, lifting up one another and lifting up our humanity. Let us join hands and do so.