Honoring Dr. MLK, Jr: uniting to fight antisemitism.

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

On Sunday, about 100 Evanston residents gathered at Northwestern University's Alice Millar Chapel to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to unite to fight against the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States. The idea was Michael Nabors', senior pastor of Second Baptist Church and president of the North Shore chapter of the NAACP, who offered a powerful sermon.

"Today’s gathering to stand against anti-Semitism is, by virtue of its very presence, also a gathering to stand against all hatred and bias experienced by people anywhere in this nation and world," he said.

Tahera Ahmad, associate chaplain at Northwestern University welcomed the congregation. Rev. Charlie de Kay, St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Pastor Daniel Ruen of Grace Lutheran Church, and Rev. Eileen Wiviott of the Unitarian Church of Evanston participated in the service, which included singing by the Second Baptist, Grace Lutheran, and Beth Emet Choirs, a mime ministry performance and liturgical dance by Second Baptist dancers.

"I'm so proud of this community. I'm just filled with joy," Rabbi Andrea Coustan London told the congregation. I'm just filled with possibility that better days are around the corner because we're going to bring those days. God is calling us to justice, God is calling us to righteousness."

Funds raised from congregants donations went to T'ruah, an organization of 2,000 rabbis that works to protect and advance human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories.

"We are in darkness when we don't see each other. When we don't recognize the dignity and worth of every beloved human being created in the divine image. We are in darkness when we discriminate against other human beings based on the color of our skin, our gender, our sexual orientation, our religion, our national origin, or anything that makes us different and uniquely precious," said Rabbi London.

"Today we refuse to let this darkness envelop us. We come together to pledge to be beacons of light, to uplift and celebrate our differences and common humanity. We refuse to be hateful and cruel. We reject the politics of divide and conquer."

Grace Lutheran Church's Pastor Daniel Ruen offered the call to action, encouraging those gathered to board buses and head to Washington, DC on June 19 for the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival march. The campaign, a revival of the one begun by Dr. King in 1968, just before he died focuses on ending systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and the war economy and militarism. I'll write more about the march and how you can get involved in a separate post.

Here is the transcript of Pastor Nabors' remarks (slightly edited for length)

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

I am grateful for your presence today. In this frigid weather, your very presence is a testimony to the power of Dr. King and the desire to end anti-Semitism in our nation and world.

As we worked to frame today’s community worship, it became abundantly clear that our focus for today must be on the rising tide of anti-Semitism in our nation and world.

This does not mean that the rising tide of racism, or Islamaphobia, or Homophobia, or Immigration phobia are not as pressing and pervasive. They are. It is time, however, that we learned a vitally important lesson: when we band together to stand against and fight down one horrible discrimination, the others will also begin to wilt and soon be thrown into a Dark Sea of history. Perpetrators and beneficiaries of hatred and prejudice have used every instrument available to cause those groups who are hated, to be divided among themselves. They know, and we should know, that divided we can accomplish nothing. But united we have potential to change the world.

Today’s gathering to stand against anti-Semitism is by virtue of its very presence also a gathering to stand against all hatred and bias experienced by people anywhere in this nation and world.

It is my hope that one day, we will learn that uniting under the umbrella of all humanity will benefit every race, every ethnicity, every country and nation on earth. An example of such unity, is one that I would like to share with you briefly. When I arrived in Evanston four and a half years ago, Rabbi London reached out to me and took me to lunch, "The Little Mexican Cafe." An African American man, a Jewish woman, tearing up some Mexican food. What an introduction to a town that takes great pride in its diversity.

Soon after that lunch, she and I, and my daughter Spencer and others from Beth Emet, were on a flight to South Carolina. We marched with that group who started out from Selma and went all the way to Washington, DC, commemorating the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

Two years later, Pastor Ruen joined us on a flight to Washington, DC to join thousands of clergy in support of the Black Action Network of Al Sharpton and a demonstration at the United States Justice Department.

Last spring high school students from each of our congregations joined together for four nights and five days to learn about civil rights and social justice right here in the Metro Chicago area. And in October, members of Beth Emet, Pastor Daniel, Rabbi London and I traveled to Israel and Palestine to learn about social justice there--among Jews and Muslims, Israel and Palestine. We need more of these experiences. We need more opportunities for races and ethnicities, for religions and faiths, to come under the cosmic umbrella of humanity so that we may sense the divine in us all. As a matter of fact, not only do we need more of this, but there is a deep-seated urgency among us, demanding it from us.

The words of Dr. King ring so precisely today, “Either we will learn to live together as brothers and sisters or we will perish separately as fools.”

On that trip we found ourselves on the highest point of a brand new city built by Palestinians called Ruwabi. There, in a welcome center for people interested in moving to a brand new town, I caught a vision of possibility. I believe that one day, in that very space in that most sacred region of the world, there will be an Interfaith gathering of people from every willing country and every willing race and religion. And in that gathering we will talk about how our respective faiths, with a focus on full equality and peace, must influence our nations and the people in them.