On the frozen steps of New York’s City Hall last week, Martin Luther King Jr, yes, the late Martin Luther King Jr. Gave me a gift. Yes, I know it’s customary to get, not give gifts on your birthday but there it was, clear as day.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center released our Top Ten Worst Anti-Semitic Incidents of the past year. A sobering and frankly frightening snapshot of 2015’s scorecard of history’s oldest hate. Islamist fundamentalism, ISIS threats, intimidation of Jewish students on our nation’s finest campuses…
All of this against the backdrop of FBI hate crimes stats that confirm 70% of race-based hate crimes in America are African American and over 56% of victims of hate crimes based on religion–Jews.
And then it happened–a gift from MLK wrapped in a New York Moment.
Thirteen elected New York State and City elected officials — one born in Haiti, another in China, plus four children of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust huddled around the frozen podium to draw a red line against hate.
New York State Assemblyman, Walter Mosley, a young African-American legislator put it this way… “As we approach the dawn of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday we remember that he taught us if men and women fail to speak out, then hatred will never be defeated. Dr. King wasn’t just about a dream, but about acts and solidarity.”
Walter Mosely represents a district in Brooklyn that includes Bristol Street, where my immigrant grandparents, who fled religious persecution and economic strangulation in Poland and Russia put down roots. My earliest memories are from my first Seder in their home in 1953…
City Council Member Mathieu Eugene, who was born in Haiti, spoke emotionally of his visit to a pediatric ward in Israel, where a critically ill Haitian child was being treated “alongside, Jewish, Arab, and other kids from around the world. This is the true face of Israel, which I will always cherish and seek to protect”.
Council Member Chaim Deutsch, who, unlike his co-religionists in Paris publicly wears his Yarmulkas, said this “… As a son of Holocaust survivors, I was raised to respect every human being, whatever their race, nationality, religion, or creed… All New Yorkers must work together and speak out against all hate crimes.”
MLK channeled us for a teachable New York moment. His spirit is his gift. Are all Americans ready to claim his birthday present?