January 19, 2015

On Dr. King's birthday: What Selma meant to Jews like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, right, marches with Dr. King
and other civil rights leaders / Getty Images

Happy birthday, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968). A model of nonviolent liberation from oppression, Reverend Dr. King opened a door, inviting all Americans to join in unity against segregation and racism.

On the historic march from Selma to Montgomery (March 18, 1965), under U.S. Military protection, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel joined spiritual leaders of multiple races, religions, and creeds marching abreast with Dr. King, Ralph Bunche, John Lewis, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and Rev. C.T. Vivian, and followed by 2,300 citizens. Heschel famously said, “For many of us the march was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”

Heschel's daughter, Dr. Susannah Heschel, writes in the Jewish Daily Forward what that march signified to King, to Jews like her father, and to all who sought (and seek) justice. And who call for accuracy in depicting history.

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