At a time when we are made powerfully aware of how religion can be distorted to engender hatred, it is important to also be aware of how religion can serve its extraordinary purpose of bringing us closer to a world of greater understanding and compassion. January is the month in which we celebrate the birthday of an enormously constructive and inspiriting religious leader, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Because he experienced hatred, violence and destruction and transcended those experiences, remaining hopeful and gentle, we look to him as a model of our time.
Martin Luther King Day is an important day for commemoration and reflection, and not only for African Americans. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood the meaning of discrimination and oppression. He sought ways to achieve liberation and peace, and he thus understood that a special relationship exists between African Americans and American Jews.
King was a voice of reason in a troubled time, and his concern went far beyond the prejudice against African Americans. Just as Jews stood with King, marched with King, and worked with King toward an America of equality for all, so King stood with the Jewish community whenever prejudice against Jews was concerned.
In a world filled with violence, from terrorism to war, from continual discrimination and prejudice against minority groups especially against people of color and members of the GLBT community, Dr. King showed us how to channel rage away from destruction into nonviolent protest for the redress of grievance. Dr. King also showed humility and faith in the face of hatred and bigotry. Above all, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of hope and affirmation. He was able to articulate with eloquence the highest ideals. He was a voice of reason in a troubled time. MLK Day is an important day in our calendar. It is a holiday that was created to memorialize the life of a great man and to remind us of the work that remains to be done to realize his vision.