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Jewish Presence Felt in Washington at Commemorative Civil Rights March

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Jewish organizational representatives were among the estimated 75,000 people participating in events here last weekend commemorating the 30th anniversary of the historic civil rights march on Washington.

This year’s march was held on Shabbat, which limited official participation by Jewish groups.

But the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism was represented Saturday afternoon at the events at the Lincoln Memorial.

Rabbi David Saperstein, the center’s director, spoke Saturday afternoon, and Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, the associate director, was one of several clergy offering invocations as the events at the memorial began.

In his remarks, Saperstein referred to the stirring words of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the 1963 march being commemorated.

Saperstein said that King would not have given up hope despite the vast problems facing the world today.

“Take heart, for if you will it, the dream lives on. If you will it and do not despair, the dream will yet come to pass,” Saperstein said.

Also limiting participation in march-related activities was the almost-suffocating late-August heat and humidity blanketing Washington.

Small crowds turned out last Friday afternoon for two gun-control rallies organized with the backing of the American Jewish Committee.

CONTROVERSY OVER FARRAKHAN

AJCommittee, together with African-American groups here in Washington, has been coordinating a series of rallies outside the National Rifle Association’s headquarters here.

On Friday, there was one rally on the Mall, followed by one at the NRA building.

Jeffrey Weintraub, AJCommittee’s Washington area director, also noted that AJCommittee officials were present at the march events Saturday afternoon.

And Robert Lifton, president of the American Jewish Congress, said in a statement last Friday that he supported the aims of the demonstrators calling for stricter gun-control laws.

The original 1963 march, best remembered for King’s speech, ushered in the era of civil rights and voting rights legislation backed by the administration of President Lyndon Johnson.

Among the themes of this year’s march were job creation and an end to discrimination.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that the Religious Action Center was involved in a controversy surrounding Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam minister regarded by many as anti-Semitic.

The Black Muslim minister did not speak at the march, and organizers said that he had not been invited to do so, the Post reported.

The Post reported that Nation of Islam representatives at the march were distributing a letter from Saperstein saying the Religious Action Center would withdraw its support for the march if Farrakhan spoke.

The center said the Nation of Islam was distributing a private message sent before it had learned Farrakhan had not been invited to speak.

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