On January 15, after this week’s CEO Letter (see below) had been finalized, my Federation colleagues and I learned about the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. We are deeply grateful that all the hostages were rescued and are safe, and our hearts are with Colleyville’s Jewish community. It was terrible news to hear on Shabbat, when our thoughts turn to soulful rest, and on the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., when we remember his tireless work to create the beloved community, work that remains unfinished.
Yesterday’s crisis is a sobering reminder that security is a paramount concern for our community. We encourage Jewish organizations to contact SAFE Washington to learn more about the security resources that this Federation program provides, such as safety protocol reviews, including active shooter sessions, and upcoming trainings on applying for non-profit security grants. During these challenging times, SAFE Washington can help Jewish organizations with necessary security while remaining warm, welcoming, and inclusive places where all are welcome.
January 17 is the third Monday in January, when we commemorate the life and impact of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on our country and the world. It’s a day to honor his legacy—and to remember that all of us have a responsibility to carry on his life’s work.
On the south wall of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC, there is an engraved quote of Dr. King’s that speaks eloquently to that responsibility. On a 1959 march for integrating schools, he said, “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
His remarks on that long-ago day resonate deeply with our Jewish values that call on each of us to value the humanity in each person, to pursue justice, and to repair our world. The world of 1959, when Dr. King put forth that challenge, is profoundly different in many ways from our lives in 2022, yet age-old injustices and hatreds still bedevil our society—increasing antisemitism, racial inequities, persistent “othering” that leave our nation short of its founding ideals.
The work to which Dr. King dedicated his life remains unfinished. It compels us to take up his challenge to make a career of humanity. This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day coincides with Tu B’Shvat, a day for planting seeds and securing our collective future. All of us have a role to play in planting those seeds. To speak with clarity and to act resolutely in the spirit of lo ta’amod al dam rey’ech, to not stand idly by. To keep in our minds and hearts our full awareness that, as Dr. King said in Montgomery in 1965, “that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”
Together, in that spirit, we will move ever closer to realizing Dr. King’s beloved community.