Special Services Held on the Eve of the March on Washington
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Special Services Held on the Eve of the March on Washington

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Separate Sabbath services on Friday night, the eve of the mammoth march here commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, at which Dr. Martin Luther King presented his historic “I have a dream” speech, symbolized differences with the Jewish community over support of yesterday’s march.

One special Sabbath service was held at Temple Sinai, sponsored by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), which unhesitatingly endorsed and took part in the march, despite initial widespread opposition from other Jewish organizations. About 600 worshippers attended that service.

The other service was sponsored by the New Jewish Agenda, an anti-establishment group, which was held at American University and attended by about 500 marchers.

In contrast to the 1963 march, when many Jews marched under Jewish banners, the only visibly Jewish organization represented among the marchers was the New Jewish Agenda, whose several hundred marchers were joined by members of the UAHC, the umbrella agency for American Reform synagogues.

Hundreds of other Jews were presumed to have joined the estimated 250,000 marchers but they did so as individuals. The New Jewish Agenda marchers carried a red Star of David, with the greeting “Shalom,” and a 24-foot banner proclaiming in gold letters, “Justice, Justice shalt thou pursue.”

More than 60 speakers were listed to address the mammoth assembly, each limited to five minutes. There were no Jewish spokesmen among them.


Coretta Scott King, widow of the assassinated Black civil rights leader, told the worshippers at the Temple Sinai service that “Jews have supported Black Americans in their quest for equality because it is morally right. It is for this some reason that responsible Black Americans will continue to vigorously oppose anti-Semitism in America.”

Rabbi Alexander Schindler, UAHC president, who gave the benediction at the close of the march yesterday, told the Temple Sinai service: “I am proud that the movement of Reform Judaism will take its place among the hundreds of thousands of Americans of every race, religion and walk of life who will be march ing together for justice, peace and freedom. “He declared: “Our presence will be consonant with the highest moral and ethical values of the Jewish tradition. It will be in keeping with our devotion to the security and dignity of Israel and its people” and “it will demonstrate our commitment to the goals of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dream of reconciliation, of healing, and of struggling together until the last battle is won.”

Dr. Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told the worshippers that “we appreciate the support of Jews who were in the very forefront of the battle” for civil rights for Blacks.

Referring to recent differences between Jews and Blacks, Hooks said “we must submerge our differences and remember the things that join us together and strengthen us, not the things that keep us apart.”

Representatives of the American Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith and the Greater Washington Jewish Council, which had also endorsed the march, some after march organizers agreed to eliminate from the march agenda references Jewish groups considered to be anti-Israel, participated in the service.

Martin Luther King III spoke at the New Jewish Agenda service. He was joined by Susannah Heschel, daughter of the late theologian, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, in blessing the Sabbath candles.

Moe Rosenstein, the New Jewish Agenda coordinator for the march, said that the joint participation by Dr. King’s son and Ms. Heschel in the service “will be our way of beginning the process of reconciliation” between Jews and Blacks. He added that “the alliance between Blacks and Jews in the past has been a powerful force for promoting justice and now is the time to work through our differences so we can join together to realize Dr. King’s dream.”

After initial hesitation, the American Jewish Committee also endorsed the march. Like other Jewish groups, the Committee sent suggestions to chapters to hold events at the local level to commemorate the 1963 march. Howard Friedman, Committee president, sent a telegram to Mrs. King, pledging the Committee’s support and “renewed determination” to help achieve the goals of Dr. King.

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