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Israel and U.S. Jewish Organizations to Mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

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President Chaim Herzog of Israel has announced that in recognition of the first celebration of the new American federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., January 20, 1986 will be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Israel.

The Israel Knesset will pay tribute to the slain civil rights leader by holding a special afternoon session in his honor, which will be opened by the Speaker of the Knesset. It will be followed by a reception for government officials, dignitaries, diplomats and other leaders in the Knesset’s Chagall Hall.

In addition, schools and universities in Israel are expected to commemorate that with special programs which will take note of King’s life and works. Other activities being planned in Israel include the naming of a street for King in Jerusalem and a ceremony at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Forest in the Galilee, near Nazareth.

SPECIAL COMMEMORATION ON WEDNESDAY

Israe’s Embassy in Washington, meanwhile, together with the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, the Jewish National Fund, the International Association of the Official Human Rights Agencies and the American Israel Friendship League, will host a special commemoration on Wednesday.

This will be the second consecutive year in which such an event will be held at the Embassy. Last January, several hundred prominent Americans joined with Israeli citizens to honor King. Leading figures from the Black, Jewish and general communities have been invited to attend this year’s commemoration.

Several American Jewish organizations have undertaken or called for various activities in order to honor King, who had long been a vocal supporter of the Jewish State, Jewish people, Zionism, Soviet Jewry and other causes of concern to the Jewish community.

“I see Israel,” King declared just 10 days before his assassination in 1968, ” And I never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can almost be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and security must be reality. “

VARIOUS PROGRAMS PREPARED

The American Jewish Congress will mark King’s birthday with an exhibit in the main lobby of its headquarters here of photographs and statements that will include King’

In Philadelphia, the Germantown Jewish Center will be the site for an interfaith and interracial program involving 28 Northwest Community groups that have joined to sponsor “Living the Dream: The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ” The tribute is being held for the third consecutive year in North-west Philadelphia.

The program, scheduled for Sunday afternoon, will feature a dialogue between Dr. John Raines, associate professor of Religion at Temple University, and Sonia Sanchez, a poet and author who is associate professor of English at Temple University. There will also be, among others, a presentation by Susannah Heschel, daughter of Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who was a close associate of King.

B’nai B’rith International President Gerald Kraft this week called on the organization’s membership to “participate in or initiate” programs commemorating the achievements of King. Kraft said that King “sought to fulfill the American dream of equality for all …. King remains an inspiration to people every-where.”

SYNAGOGUES URGED TO DESIGNATE SABBATHS

Meanwhile, the American Jewish Heritage Committee appealed to synagogues throughout the nation to designate January 17-18 or January 24-25 as “Martin Luther King Sabbath” and “to religiously celebrate Dr. King’s birthday, recall his legacy to his people and to all Americans, and reaffirm Black-Jewish relations.”

Heritage Committee president Rabbi William Berkowitz has sent to some 3,000 Conservative, Orthodox and Reform rabbis a sample sermon, program ideas and suggested prayers and responsive readings that could be used on the designated Sabbaths.

The materials include an array of projects that synagogues can undertake to help carry on King’s work. Among them are Black-Jewish dialogue, pulpit exchanges with Black ministers, joint rallies on human rights, and fund-raising efforts for the Martin luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Change in Atlanta, which is headed by King’s widow, Coretta Scott King.

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